The operas of Daniel Auber are rarely staged or recorded these days; most of them are opéras comiques, and perhaps it is the prejudice against the comic that hurt him with posterity. La Sirène was composed in 1844 at the height of Auber's fame, and it was so popular that potpourris of its tunes circulated in print in the following years. Yet this is its world recorded premiere. Sample the big Act I finale, or in any one of a number of other places, if you want to hear a generally underappreciated influence on the style of Arthur Sullivan. The opera was written in collaboration with Auber's longtime librettist, the playwright Eugène Scribe, and the chemistry between the two was so close that Auber could sometimes write music and have Scribe set words to it. All this suggests that their work could be a bit formulaic, and so it is. But the story is funny, down to earth, and satirical; it concerns a girl, Zerlina (and indeed she is a rather Mozartian character), who sings in order to lure travelers into a trap where they can be robbed. The opera comes with a synopsis but no libretto; one is furnished online, but it is a water- or perhaps wine-stained scan of an original French libretto, something that is unlikely to be of much use to anyone. The performers, with such amusing names as the Orchestre des Frivolités Parisiennes, under David Reiland, and the choir Les Métaboles, are adequate in this live performance, and this recording may inspire many to seek out other works by Auber and Scribe; they would seem ideal for school productions in the Francophone sphere and perhaps beyond.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|La Sirène (The Siren)|