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Massenet: Thaïs / Abel, Fleming, Hampson, Sabbatini, et al

Album Summary

>Massenet, Jules : Thaïs, opera in 3 acts
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

"'Thais' might have seemed an exotic rarity, but this superb recording makes a real case for it as music drama...Yves Abel reveals it as a glorious febrile work rich in passion, opulence, glittering detail...and 'fin-de-siecle' decadence...Renee Fleming produces a gorgeous, voluptuous sound, and her ability to float notes is utterly beguiling...Hamson is a noble and ardent Athanael..." ***** -Wrathall, BBC

Good CD Guide
Within minutes of Renée Fleming's entrance it is clear that she simply has a vocal class that puts her in a different league. The famous Meditation is a dream. It is clear that this new Thaïs has pretty well everything going for it.

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
At last - a modern recording of Thaïs with a soprano who can sing the title-role. All we need is a soprano with a fabulously beautiful voice, idiomatic French, a sensuous legato, pure high notes up to a stratospheric top D, and the ability to leave every listener weak at the knees. Where was the problem? Renée Fleming makes it all sound so easy. Her success a couple of years ago at the Opéra Bastille in Paris with Massenet's Manon showed that she has an affinity for this composer.

As Thaïs, a role with a similar vocal profile, she proves equally well cast. Within minutes of her entrance it's clear that neither of the other sets from the last 25 years will be able to touch her.

Fleming simply has a vocal class that puts her in a different league and there's just enough individuality in her singing to give Fleming's Thaïs a personality of her own, and vocal loveliness brings a bloom to her every scene.

The Athanaël she leaves behind is Thomas Hampson, who is her match in sensitivity and roundness of tone. Their duet at the oasis in the desert is beautifully sung, every word clear, every phrase shaped with feeling. If only Hampson were equally good at getting beneath the skin of the operatic characters he plays. In the case of Athanaël there's plenty of psychological complexity down there to uncover, but Hampson seems unwilling to engage the character's dark side.

Occasionally, one regrets that Abel doesn't have the New Philharmonia at his disposal, as Maazel does, but the subtlety of colour and accent that he draws from the Orchestre National Bordeaux-Aquitaine are a world apart from Maazel's constant up-front aggression. The famous 'Méditation', elegantly played by the young French violinist Renaud Capuçon, and featuring swoony background chorus is a dream. Add in a first-class Decca recording and it will be clear that this new Thaïs has pretty well everything going for it.


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Works Details

>Massenet, Jules : Thaïs, opera in 3 acts
  • Performers: Isabelle Cals (Mezzo Soprano); Renaud Capuçon (Violin); Renée Fleming (Soprano); Thomas Hampson (Voice); Stefano Palatchi (Bass); Giuseppe Sabbatini (Tenor); Enkelejda Shkosa (Mezzo Soprano); Elizabeth Vidal (Voice)
  • Conductor: Yves Abel
  • Ensemble: Bordeaux Grand-Theatre Chorus
  • Notes: Franklin Hall, Bordeaux, France (02/13/1997-02/23/1997)
  • Running Time: 43 min. 47 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1892