Great singing in rare opera
Mr JB | Karlskrona Sweden | 11/06/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Let's begin with saying that this is a very good recording of a rarely performed and/or recorded opera by Bizet, who also wrote the highly dramatic 'Carmen' and the more lyrically inspired 'les pecheurs de perles', of which Carmen naturally is the masterpiece. La jolie fille de Perth is something in between those two. It has the lyric beauty of 'les pecheurs', but also contain some hints of what was to come in Carmen in form of a more personal style, orchestration and dramatic intensity. In style, though, it is still very much Grand Opera with lots of chorus, some instrumental parts, and a rather poor story that's mostly there to produce as many solonumbers as possible.Georges Prêtre here makes a rather fine reading of this lyrical opera, not as histrionic or violent as some other of his performances on disc, although he still at a few times is rather unsensitive - this is though, for example, far better than his almost hysteric account of 'les pecheurs de perles' recorded 8 years before this set. He has also learnt the lesson of letting his singers step forward and work with them, not above them. The soloists the? Well, we have a great cast here that contributes far more to the four-star rating I've made than Prêtre: A wonderful coloratura soprano from June Andersson, her singing in the finale of act 4 is magnificent; an ever-stylish lyrical tenor from Alfredo Kraus - his ardent voice suits this kind of opera perfectly, the most famous part, the 'serenade' is very beautiful; some of the finest lower french male voices possible to get from van Dam, Bacquier and Quilico. Everyone may not like the oldfashioned timbre of Margarita Zimmerman as Mab, but she's effective and hers is a minor role. So, the weak parts, if anything, is Prêtre's conducting that is not perfect, not in tempi, nor in style - but it's good enough and with such singers to help him this is really good. If you like Bizet, this probably won't disappoint you, it has all his trademarks of captivating rhytms, unbelievable beauty and lyricism, exotism. Though no Carmen, 'La Jolie fille' might well rank aside 'les pecheurs' if performed under perfect conditions. A must for Bizet lovers."