Meyerbeer needs his operatic champions. Robert le diable was poorly served by Laurent Pelly’s 2012 production at Covent Garden, but the Deutsche Oper is taking up the challenge, currently in the midst of a Meyerbeer cycle which began with Vasco da Gama in 2015. The year before, it presented a concert performance of Dinorah at Berlin’s Philharmonie, released here on CPO.
An opéra comique in three acts to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, it was originally entitled Le pardon de Ploërmel (‘The Pardon of Ploërmel’). Dinorah is a Breton peasant girl who has gone mad following the disappearance of her bridegroom, the goatherd Hoël, a year earlier when a storm interrupted their wedding. In reality, Hoël has gone off in search of treasure, trapped under a vow of silence. A year on, he returns to claim first the treasure, then his bride.
It’s a slight opera but its most famous aria, ‘Ombre légère’, in which Dinorah sings to her shadow, was recorded by Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland and Lily Pons among others. Anyone used to Meyerbeer in grand opéra mode may be surprised to find he does pastoral charm rather well, with merrymaking peasants, bucolic woodcutters and rustic clarinets for bagpipes. Character solos for a hunter, a reaper and two herders hold up the action in Act 3 but Meyerbeer’s score is most enjoyable. Enrique Mazzola spins gossamer touches from the Deutsche Oper’s orchestra.
Patrizia Ciofi is plucky in the title-role. Her opening aria finds Dinorah still in her bridal gown, searching for her little white goat. Ciofi lacks a little sparkle here and is cloudy in her lower register but sings strongly in the forlorn romance ‘Le vieux sorcier’. She is breathless with excitement in ‘Ombre légère’, even if her coloratura isn’t technically perfect, and neither is the trill on which she closes. For Opera Rara, Deborah Cook is a stronger Dinorah, but the rest of the cast cannot match this new recording.
There is plenty of virile bite to French Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis’s singing as Hoël, especially in his paean to gold, pearls and rubies. His wiry baritone is a little strained at the top in his Act 3 romance ‘Ah! mon remords te venge’, but his is an impressive voice. Dupuis strikes a good partnership with Philippe Talbot in the comic tenor role of Corentin, a timorous bagpiper, as they set off to claim the treasure. A drinking duet turns into a delightful ‘Terzettino de la clochette’ before Dinorah tumbles into an abyss. Miraculously, she survives. What’s more, the bump on the head makes her forget the past year and she wakes up thinking it’s her wedding day – cue for a happy ending in this enjoyable recording.