Gramophone's Artist of the Year 2023

The presence of Véronique Gens’s name on a CD press release is pretty much a cast-iron guarantee of classy singing. The French soprano started her career with Les Arts Florissants – William Christie gave her a tiny role in Lully’s Atys while she was still studying at the Paris Conservatoire – and swiftly established herself as a stylish singer. An early recording was Purcell’s The Fairy Queen Harmonia Mundi (1989) in which Gens appeared alongside another young French soprano, Sandrine Piau, with whom she now shares a Gramophone Award for their superb disc ‘Rivales’.

Gens is an excellent Mozartian – Donna Elvira in a Festival d’Aix-en-Provence Don Giovanni, captured live for Virgin, and Countess Almaviva and Fiordiligi on René Jacobs’s acclaimed period-instrument recordings of Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte. But it is in the realms of French opera and song that Gens reigns supreme, not just for her superb vocalism but for her inventive programming and her ability to inhabit a role. Of her disc ‘Passion’, Richard Lawrence wrote: ‘She has the knack – harder, surely, in miscellaneous pieces than in a complete opera – of instantly getting to the heart of a character’ (11/21).

For Virgin, Gens recorded a trio of albums under the title ‘Tragédiennes’, traversing operas by Lully, Rameau, Gluck, Berlioz, Massenet and others, including roles usually sung by mezzo-sopranos, such as Fidès in Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, and Cassandre and Didon in Les Troyens (Gens’s soprano sits quite low, and she strikes me as a classic ‘falcon’).

In recent years, Gens has worked especially closely with two enterprising French labels, Alpha and Palazzetto Bru Zane, producing a wealth of riches in the worlds of opera and song. In 2016 she won a Gramophone Award for ‘Néère’, a disc she planned herself and pushed for 15 years to bring to fruition. ‘I was told that French song didn’t sell,’ she explained in these pages (7/17), ‘that I should sing Schubert or Wolf, and I was so grateful when Alpha took it on.’

There followed a glorious string of recital discs exploring rare repertoire: notably ‘Nuits’ (exquisite songs); ‘Visions’ (arias from different genres popular in the Romantic era); and ‘Passion’, her return to the Baroque. Also for Alpha, there have been complete operas, such as Rameau’s Zoroastre and Marais’s Ariane et Bacchus.

Recent years have seen Gens appear on some outstanding releases for Palazzetto Bru Zane, such as Franck’s Hulda, Massenet’s songs with orchestra and Messager’s operetta Passionnément.

If one needed to demonstrate further her remarkable versatility, one could look to the 20th century and Poulenc: Gens sang Madame Lidoine in Olivier Py’s powerful staging of Dialogues des Carmélites, preserved on DVD (with Piau as Soeur Constance; Warner, 3/15); more recently, she recorded the role of Elle, the sole character in La voix humaine, of which Tim Ashley wrote, ‘Every word is fraught with meaning, every emotional shift unsparingly treated without once tipping towards exaggeration’ (2/23).

Quite simply, French vocal music could not have a finer ambassador. Mark Pullinger

Recording categories




Concept Album


Early Music



Orchestral & Recording of the Year



Spatial Audio

Voice & Ensemble

Special Awards

Lifetime Achievement

Label of the Year

Young Artist of the Year

Artist of the Year

Orchestra of the Year

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