Diana Damrau / Emmanuel Villaume / Lyon National Opera Orchestra

Meyerbeer: Grand Opera

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Giacomo Meyerbeer, the French composer with an Italian-German name (adopted) and a Jewish background, was the toast of Paris for much of the middle 19th century, the musical collaborator of the great Eugène Scribe, and the single person in whose hands the genre of grand opera most clearly took shape. His music fell out of fashion among the late Romantics, was further depressed by Nazi bans, and has taken a while to come back into style. This fine anthology by German soprano Diana Damrau will help his cause. Plainly a labor of love, the album includes arias in German (one very early) and Italian as well as French, and among the latter from opéras comiques as well as grand opera. Some of the music sounds like Rossini, some like Wagner (whom Meyerbeer backed early in his career and was repaid by an anti-Semitic campaign), but most of it has a distinctive voice marked above all by splendid vocal writing. The music often hangs in the soprano's top register, and Damrau evokes how Meyerbeer's audiences must have felt on the knife's edge. There are examples of Meyerbeer's masterful orchestration, such as the flute duo from L'étoile du Nord, and the support from the Orchestra and Chorus of the National Opera of Lyon is top-notch, as is Erato's engineering. One gets the impression here that no expense was spared, rare enough in opera these days, and that the money was well spent. To hear it all tied together, sample "O beau pays de la Touraine", with Damrau excelling in both the haunting middle section and the fireworks of the finale. Brava!

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Le Prophète
1 4:03
Robert le Diable
2 5:52
Alimelek, oder die beiden Kalifen
3 6:17
L'Étoile du Nord
4 6:57
L'Africaine
5 5:33
Il Crociato in Egitto
6 9:20
Le Pardon de Ploërmel
7 8:20
Ein Feldlager in Schlesien
8 6:52
Emma di Resburgo
9 6:38
Les Huguenots
10 12:54
L'Africaine
11 8:33
blue highlight denotes track pick