Auber Gustave III
Auber has become one of the forgotten men of music. Textbooks credit him with being the initiator of the Grand Opera genre that Meyerbeer was to develop, and with being the first to compose an opera on the subject of Manon Lescaut (nearly 30 years before Massenet), but his once-popular Fra Diavolo has dropped out of the repertoire, and even his
It is a performance that reflects considerable credit on all concerned. The star of the show, following in the steps of Nourrit, who originally took the title-role, is Laurence Dale (an Englishman with perfect French), who employs his lyrical, freely-produced voice (which also contains the requisite metal) with the greatest intelligence, making every word not only dear but meaningful, and pacing his recitatives admirably: he has two big arias, one in Act 5, the other, at the start of the opera, sailing up twice to a top D. Christian Treguier brings a fine voix noble to the part of the wronged Ankastrom who eventually assassinates Gustave (with a very unconvincing pistol shot, incidentally); there is a suitably dark-voiced sorceress from Valerie Marestin and a flexible, soubrettishly bright page from Brigitte Lafon. Rima Tawil is a dramatic soprano who at times seems to be exerting over-much pressure, but she is certainly an impressive figure: her Belgian-type rolled 'r's', however, are somewhat obtrusive. Chorus and orchestra are excellent, and Swierczewski, whose performances of Mehul I have previously praised judges tempos well and, bearing in mind that the recording is taken from live performances, secures very laudable precision even in the largest-scale ensembles (only once, in the Act 2 finale, is there a momentary lapse). The printed libretto, rather faultily translated, has not been quite fully co-ordinated with what is actually sung.'