Marie Perbost: Une jeunesse à Paris
Marie Perbost takes her own Parisian upbringing as the starting point for her debut album in Harmonia Mundi’s ‘harmonia nova’ series. When she was young, she tells us in a booklet note, her father installed in her a love of cabaret and the chanson tradition embodied by Jacques Brel and Marie Laforêt. She became familiar with the world of opera, both on and off stage, meanwhile, through her mother, who sang in the chorus at the Opéra Bastille. The programme for her recital, ‘a reflection on these two influences’, as she describes it, juxtaposes mélodies with chansons and numbers from 19th-century operettas, familiar or otherwise.
Tellingly, she describes herself as being as much an actress as a singer. Her voice itself is sweet in tone, with an appealing gleam in its upper registers, but it’s the emphasis she places on the texts that actually makes her stand out. It serves her wonderfully well when it comes to the nuances and double entendres of the chansons and operetta extracts, where she sounds impudently suggestive in numbers by Hervé, sails through Désiré Dihau’s filthy ‘La Tour Eiffel’ with monumental indecency and gets the bittersweet mood of Hahn’s ‘La dernière valse’ absolutely right. She’s joined by the handsome-sounding tenor Paco Garcia, meanwhile, for a gloriously witty performance, the disc’s high point, of the ‘Duo des bijoux’ from Gaston Serpette’s Le petit chaperon rouge, a gem of a number that affectionately parodies the Jewel Song from Gounod’s Faust.
The same intelligence and spirit are very much at work in the mélodies. Poulenc’s Banalités are all barbed wit until bitterness sets in with the final, regretful ‘Sanglots’, and Debussy’s ‘C’est l’extase’ really sounds ‘langoureuse’ as the vocal line hovers and twists and turns. She’s a bit detached, though, in Weill’s ‘La complainte de la Seine’ when placed beside Teresa Stratas or indeed the chanteuse Lys Gauty, for whom it was written. Pianist Joséphine Ambroselli, meanwhile, plays with great finesse across the disc’s unusually wide range of styles. I would have preferred a larger ensemble for the operetta numbers than five instrumentalists – string quartet and clarinet – from Frivolités Parisiennes, though their contribution is unquestionably stylish. It’s a fine recital, though, and a most impressive debut: one hopes to hear more of her, in French operetta above all.