Jules Gressier

Daniel-François-Esprit Auber: Le Domino Noir

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Although the gradual eclipse of the operas of Daniel-François-Esprit Auber began around 1900, there were opera houses that still performed certain Auber operas on a local basis afterward. Le Domino Noir, Auber's greatest opera, never truly parted company with the repertoire of the Opéra Comique in Paris, and that is probably the source of this 1950 radio broadcast performance reproduced on Opera d'Oro's two-disc budget release of Le Domino Noir featuring the great French soprano Janine Micheau. This wonderful performance originally appeared on the Melodram label; it brims with enthusiasm, joie de vivre, and includes subtle idiomatic touches in the orchestra that betray a long familiarity with the work. The sound quality is noisy, coming from crackly broadcast transcription lacquers, but is listenable despite some aggressive digital edits that stick out like a sore thumb. As with the Melodram release, the filler consists of some excerpts from an Italian-language recording of Auber's Fra Diavolo from Milan in March 1952. As this features soprano Alda Noni, this would have made for a lovely complement to Le Domino Noir if the sound were not so bad. It is faint, much distorted, and sounds as though once the hiss was separated from the recording that there wasn't much left over to work with.

Le Domino Noir is one of the most entertaining and easiest to grasp of all operas, and there is every reason to want to enjoy it, despite its obscurity. Richard Bonynge's Decca 1992 recording of Le Domino Noir featuring Sumi Jo really can't be beat -- it's the best recording ever made of an Auber opera. However, if one is mainly interested in the presence of Micheau, or knows Le Domino Noir already and desires to hear a good vintage performance of it, this Opera d'Oro release should provide ample enjoyment.

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