Not Perfect, But the Best Recording of A Masterpiece
(4 out of 5 stars)
"David Patrick Stearns' review is quite fair, though I like Francoise Pollet a bit more than he does. However, I should note that the cast on the only other complete recording, Colin Davis's on Philips, is also uneven; Davis has the advantage of Jon Vickers as Aeneas but the big disadvantage of the tonally unpleasant Berit Lindholm as Cassandra. Two factors make Dutoit's set my top recommendation for this opera. the conducting of Dutoit, faster and more exciting than Davis's. It could be argued that Davis captures more of the grandeur of the opera, but in practice many important moments seem to plod with Davis, especially the act 2 finale which Dutoit handles thrillingly. The second factor is French pronunciation: not only does Dutoit have more native French-speakers in his cast than Davis, but Dutoit's chorus is idiomatically French (Montreal is still mostly a French-speaking city), while Davis's English choral singers are sometimes audibly struggling to get their tongues around the words. So get Dutoit; it's not ideal, but it's the best there is for now."
"Troyens" at last!
madamemusico | Cincinnati, Ohio USA | 10/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this opera, but have had a hard time finding a recording of it I like. The old Davis set had Jon Vickers as Enee, who was magnificent, but generally plodding tempos and two awful singers in Berit Lindholm and Josephine Veasey. The live Georges Pretre broadcast had a wonderful cast--Marilyn Horne as Cassandra, Shirley Verrett as Dido, Nicolai Gedda as Enee, and Veriano Luchetti as Iopas--but it was abridged. And the new Colin Davis set has bland singing and conducting, which for me puts it out of the running entirely.This leaves only two performances to consider, the present recording and the great 1983 Met telecast with Jessye Norman, Placido Domingo and Tatiana Troyanos. The Met video is superb in many ways, but Domingo has to transpose a lot of his music down a semitone because he has no high C, and to me his voice sounds tough and leathery, not thrilling or seductive, and many of the secondary singers (i.e., Paul Plishka well past his prime) are just painful to hear....though it is wonderful to see the whole thing imaginatively staged.The present recording has a few weak links, particularly the piticul-sounding Catherine Dubosc as Ascagne, but overall it is strongly cast. Gary Lakes, who I did not like on the Conlon recording of "Oberon," sounds just wonderful here. He only misses one high C, oddly enough the same note that Vickers struggled with in HIS recording; otherwise, his voice is lovely, liquid, full and flowing, perhaps a bit too sweet-sounding for Enee but excellent none the less. Dutoit actually got Deborah Voigt to shade her voice somewhat, which results in a very musical and exciting Cassandra; and Francoise Pollet is a sumptuous Dido, perhaps not as viscerally thrilling as Janet Baker or Troyanos, but revealing a rich, creamy mezzo voice and singing the lyrics with drama and commitment. This performance had me on the edge of my seat often, and almost brought me to tears several times. Dutoit conducts his orchestra and chorus with an almost manic intensity that recalls the very best performances of Toscanini and Munch: if he had only made this one recording, I would still rank him as one of the world's greatest conductors. You can't go wrong with this "Troyens," it is simply magnificent in every respect."
A Great Recording of A Masterpiece
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 10/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"With the release of Colin Davis' new recording of Les Troyens there are now two superb recordings of this opera. There are bound to be listeners who prefer the new recording but do not discount the Decca effort. The Dutoit recording was welcomed with a lot of fanfare when it was issued and it is well sung and recorded. Deborah Voigt as Cassandre and Francoise Pollet as Didon are excellent in their roles. Gary Lakes is good indeed but seemed a little weak on some of his high notes, particularly noticable in the 3rd Act. Also, Catherine Dubose as Ascagne has too much vibrato in her voice when singing in the latter part of the 3rd act that I found distracting.Despite these minor complaints, there is much to recommend this disk: the wonderful playing by the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal and their choir being particularly excellent. Many of the supporting singers perform with great depth and beauty. An example is the aria of Hylas in the 5th Act (sung by John Mark Ainsley) whose longing for home is very beautifully sung.To sum up, if you are interested in this grand opera of Berlioz, so misunderstood in his lifetime, you will not go wrong with this set."