Notes & Reviews:
World Première Recording
Prize-winning French composer Laurent Petitgirard has written accomplished music in many forms, notably symphonic and music for film and television, but it is as an operatic composer that he has received perhaps the greatest acclaim. His opera on the subject of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man [Naxos CD 8.557608-09 / Marco Polo DVD 2.220001] was hailed as "a compelling and moving score - the composer's melodic gift is very much his own" (Sunday Telegraph). Guru, completed in 2009, is a work of similar stature. Ostensibly it concerns mass suicides in a cult, reminiscent of the 1978 Jonestown suicides, but Petitgirard's pleas for humanity, and against manipulation, are expressed with tremendous, very personal power, and compelling theatrical immediacy.
Eclectic as a musician, Laurent Petitgirard combines a career as a composer of symphonic and film music with that of a conductor. A Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, he was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in December 2000.
"It is a gripping score. The name role is for a bass-baritone, Hubert Claessens’s powerful voice carrying that impression of a person able to dominate his flock, while, Iris, the woman who gives him a child, has that innocent quality captured by Karen Wierzba’s soprano. Sonia Petrovna’s Marie is in that long line of declamatory French actresses, and does not seem a person one would argue with. Of the remaining principals I would pick out the tenor, Philippe Do, as Victor, his light lyric voice carrying a telling third act aria. The chorus and orchestra are so compelling you would imagine this has come at the end of a long series of performances, but it is a studio recording that precedes its stage debut. The supplied synopsis does need far more detail and you have to download the French libretto and translation into German and English from the Naxos website." -David's Review Corner
The drama and the music are an engrossing experience and I hope I will one day get an opportunity to see a live performance. In the meantime this excellent recording is a good substitute.
Petitgirard style is melodic, and the orchestration is lush, but sometimes is somewhat monotonous opera. The opera deserves a chance for a good staging.
We live in modern times, and this modern opera is more accessible than most I hear of. Petitgirard... is a composer who provides a range of materials and a high-quality recording with which to engage that will attract an interested audience, and maybe this will help Guru become a work that does endure ... all performers involved submit fine performances, especially Hubert Claessens in the title role. His rich tone and impeccable diction impart the authority required of Guru. Sonia Petrovna... is impressive as Marie. Her voice is strong and her musicianship obviously good - the text never comes off as stilted... Karen Wzierba is appropriately ethereal as Iris. They are supported by the fine cast of secondary leads and the Budapest Studio Choir as the disciples, who have a rich, blended sound that alternates between lovely and strident as the music calls for it. Led by Laurent Petitgirard, the performance is tight and polished and serves the music well.
Petitgirard is a musical eclectic and makes use of a variety of contemporary techniques, but 20th century French composers like Poulenc and Messiaen are among the most obvious influences, and his style is essentially lyrical. His versatility as a film composer serves him well in his depiction of dramatic situations. Petitgirard is a master of orchestration and the score is full of magical, mysterious sonorities, like a hissing chorus that sounds like a stage full of lightly rolled cymbals. It's skillful, appealing, and often striking music, and should interest fans of new opera. The composer leads the Budapest Studio Choir, the Honvéd Male Choir, and Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Budapest in a spirited, dramatic performance. Bass-baritone Hubert Claessens is impressively commanding in the title role. The part of his antagonist, Marie, a skeptical disciple who dares defy him, is a spoken role performed with ferocity by Sonia Petrovna, the composer's wife. Tenor Philippe Do and soprano Karen Wierzba are wonderfully effective in supporting roles. Naxos' sound is clean, detailed, and well-balanced.
Petitgirard understood that to make a good opera, just a solid story, characters who are musically and hold the attention of the public scenes of successful and, yes, a little pathos! The writing becomes increasingly tense and takes us to the precipice, into a spiral of suicidal Guru.
The style, while traditional, has highly individual harmony (with greater variety than Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man), and becomes increasingly tense, taking us to the edge of the abyss in the Guru's suicidal spiral. By now Classica readers have realized that they are likely to be overwhelmed on hearing this new opera on a very contemporary subject.
Recording information: Hungaroton Studio, Budapest, Hungary (10/08/2010-10/24/2010).
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Works DetailsPetitgirard, Laurent : Guru, opera in 3 acts
- Conductor: Laurent Petitgirard
- Ensemble: Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Budapest
- Notes: Hungaroton Studio, Budapest, Hungary (10/08/2010-10/24/2010)
- Running Time: 2 min. 36 sec.
- Period Time: Contemporary
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 06/2006-10/2009