(5 out of 5 stars)
"Why this wonderful opera is not performed on a frequent basis is beyond me. Without question, it contains some of Massenet's most dramatic and instantly accessible music. Beginning with the gripping prelude, with it's military and foreboding textures, one is captivated by this wonderfully concise yet dramatic story of love, war and madness. Even the entr'acte, a lovely nocturne, is sublime and definetely on par with anything ever written by Massenet; it serves as a most welcomed respite. The conclusion will make the hair on your arms stand up, as once again the prelude returns confirming the sense of tragedy it heralded from the very beginning. What can be said about the cast except that we have three major talents at their vocal prime approaching their roles with all the intensity and panache one would expect from them? The analogue recording is simply beyond reproach, with the London Symphony under Lewis sounding both resplendent and refined. One could wish that most digital recordings were imbued with this kind of richness and texture. A must have for lovers of both French opera and verismo."
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A little piece of French verissmo-- full of blood and guts: too full, really. This is one of the rare cases of an opera that needs to be longer. In one short act, the heroine crosses enemy lines to kill the leader of the invading army, comes back to a tenor who wrongly thinks she is stepping out on him, curses her while he is dying, at which point she does what any self-respecting operatic heroine does: goes insane.One wonders how this powerhouse cast was assembled for such an off-the-beaten-track piece; better to just enjoy the fact that they did. No doubt the star-power of Horne is responsible for this, and she assumes the role with all the dramatic force you would expect. Besides breathing fire throughout, she gets to let out a highly theatrical crazed fit of laughter to signify going insane at the end. Domingo and Milnes offer superb support in spite of the fact that their roles are small (having them in these parts is like duck hunting with a nuclear warhead).Massenet was full of Verdi when he wrote this- very dramatic and forceful. The three stars get a fantastic trio that is a real detatchable number and is full of Verdi's influence.Highly enjoyable and highly recommendable, especially at this price. Besides, who will ever record this opera again? Besides Zaijek, who could sing it? Buy it now, before it disappears."
Buy it indeed! A mighty gem of musical theater!
D. J. Edwards | Cheshire, CT United States | 02/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It seems that this recording is already disappearing! Even if you don't like Massenet - odd thought - you should at least hear this! Horne is thrilling and her madness is soul piercing. Doming and Milnes speak for themselves. But it is the London Symphony under Henry Lewis' baton that make this recording the masterful work of art that it is. A stream of lush harmonies and atmosphere musical making. Lewis is another underrated musician. For me, the orchestration could well be one of the most beautiful of all Massenet's operas, especially the main themes and the nocturne between acts 1 and 2. Being so short there is not a superfluous note. Indeed, its very brevity might be its undoing. A lot happens in the 48 minutes of this musical drama . The only regret is that it ends so quickly. This will certainly never see another studio recording! Recording it live? .... like that's going to happen. I wonder if it even gets seen and heard in France. At the very least get a copy of La Navarraise and hear it. I have seen the recording on the opera shelves in several libraries. Thanks to RCA for having recorded it. A worthy endeavor."