Alarie/Simoneau - Arias & Duets
The final section of the second CD offers some of the most sensuous, finely honed, idiomatic singing of a French opera I have ever been privileged to hear, and it appears that the excerpts in question have never before been issued in this country, although they were recorded more than 40 years ago. The French-Canadian singers, wife and husband, sing the main solos and duets for Lakme and Gerald with such style and feeling that one comes to believe that Delibes's opera is a masterpiece. Her ''delicate, lustrous'' soprano (adjectives used by Jurgen Kesting in his perceptive notes), his sweet, mellifluous tenor, the one perfectly attuned to the other, fulfil every demand of this perfumed, elegant score. She sings a virtually ideal Bell song, he phrases ''Fantasie aux divins mensonges'' with just the right airy elan. Together they make their duets the erotic, impulsive affairs they should be. Wonderful!
The rest of the disc is devoted to Simoneau and Alarie singing more duets from French opera. While her voice is rather too light for Juliette, Leila and Micaela, whose arias sound a bit undernourished, she is again on ideal territory as poor Mireille and bright Olympia. The recording shows signs of distortion, presumably present on the original tapes.
The first CD is comprises Simoneau in Mozart and as Alfredo. The epithet 'honeyed' might have been invented for his lyrical tenor. As Kesting puts it: ''For all the sweetness of the androgynous sound, the tone was always delivered with masculine energy''. Although he used a seamless mezza voce, it was always fully supported. We know and admire his Ottavio from the Bohm/Philips Don Giovanni recently reissued on CD (10/94), and his Ferrando from the 1954 EMI Karajan Cosi (12/88). Here, accompanied by the lethargic Paumgartner, he isn't quite as convincing, but it's good to hear him in Idomeneo's ''Fuor del mar'' (the earlier version, nicely encompassed) and in Idamante's ''Non temer'', the alternative aria not included in the 1957 Pritchard/EMI set (2/91—nla) where Simoneau sings that part.
His account of Alfredo's ''De' miei bollenti spiriti'' is shaped with true artistry, as are the duets with the lively Violetta of Maria Morales. He must have been engaging in this role, which he once sang in Chicago opposite Callas. It is good to have these items available here for the first time.'