Notes & Reviews:
Best known for his once-ubiquitous "Mignon" (1866), the output of Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896) is of late receiving renewed interest. Successful revivals of his ambitious "Hamlet" have been seen at London's Covent Garden, New York's Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere. With this world premiere recording of Thomas' 1855 opera-comique 'La Cour de Celimne'. With its large cast and sparkling ensembles, this 2-CD set is sure to delight all lovers of French opera and comes with a lavishly-illustrated booklet containing the complete sung text, translation, and a detailed account of the composer, the work's background and creation.
Andrew Litton and his cast deliver this high-class froth with verve and lightness of touch. Alastair Miles impresses as the affably cynical Commander, more excited by property than love. Sébastien Droy delivers his lovesong with honeyed elegance, while Laura Claycomb's Countess pirouettes into the stratosphere with easy grace.
We are in Opera Rara's debt again as they offer another obscure delight... Both sopranos manage the florid work with apparent ease... Alastair Miles enjoys himself in this role of worldly aristocrat... Chorus and orchestra contribute splendidly; Andrew Litton conducts with stylish zest; recorded sound is clear and well balanced.
BBC Music Magazine
La cour de Célimène is an utterly charming work. Within just a few bars, the overture evokes an atmosphere of the ancien régime, and the music remains graceful and lively throughout. There is plenty of listening pleasure here in another well-recorded Opera Rara gem.
Gramophone Classical Music Guide
La Cour de Célimène was introduced at the Opéra Comique in 1855, a time of mass-production of new operas in Paris, and was dropped after 19 performances. It was probably not so robust in tunefulness or dramatic situation as to make its way through in these circumstances. It was also tagged with the old-fashioned characteristic of an ornate vocal style. Presumably, with its courtly setting in the ancien régime it would have appeared to the more serious-minded and left-inclined of Parisians to be reactionary in its nostalgic appeal and trivial in every other respect. Today the first reaction is likely to be gratitude and delight in the discovery of a score which, if not coming up with 'big' tunes, is unfailingly melodious. We may also be more inclined to credit the comedy with a certain sophistication, the light irony of a raised eyebrow surveying the human scene, as in Così fan tutte. The title, with its implied reference to Molière, possibly adds a suggestion or two, for the countess, the central character here, is like Célimène in Le misantrope representative of the maddeningly beautiful, frivolous and privileged, and here too the world arranges itself to suit its convenience rather than its virtuous principles. At least if time rejects it yet again it will not be the fault of this performance. Both sopranos manage the florid work with apparent ease, Laura Claycomb soaring aloft gracefully, Joan Rodgers having the additional warmth to suit the Baroness's more thoughtful nature. Alastair Miles enjoys himself in his role of worldly aristocrat with the attributes of a virtuoso and a buffo bass. Sébastien Droy has the right lightness and youth of voice and manner, and, as the only Frenchman, does not show up the efforts of the English in his language. Chorus and orchestra contribute splendidly; Andrew Litton conducts with stylish zest; recorded sound is clear and well balanced.
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Works DetailsThomas, Ambroise : La Cour de Célimène, opera in 2 acts
- Performers: Sébastien Droy (Tenor); Laura Claycomb (Soprano); Joan Rodgers (Soprano); Alastair Miles (Voice)
- Conductor: Andrew Litton
- Ensemble: Philharmonia Orchestra
- Running Time: 6 min. 17 sec.
- Period Time: Romantic