Notes & Reviews:
First performed at the Paris Opéra in 1802, Sémiramis by Charles-Simon Catel is an example of the revival at that time of the tragédie lyrique inherited from Gluck. A work with a touch of exoticism (Babylon), expressing the pathos of isolation, but also with pomp in its ambitious finales, the work bade farewell to the 'Louis-XVI style' and announced, in a neo-Classical style, the grand opéra of the Romantic period. But it came at a time of polemics between supporters and detractors of the new Paris Conservatoire, where Catel, at that time professor of harmony there, had made so many enemies that the audience pit at the Opera was bristling with vengeful hostility when the curtain rose on the first act...
Hervé Niquet and his Le Concert Spirituel, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary, continue with their untiring rehabilitation of forgotten tragédies lyriques (we might recall here their Callirhoé by Destouches, Sémélé by Marais, Proserpine by Lully and Andromaque by Grétry) with this recording of Catel's Sémiramis made during the course of the Festival de Radio France, in Montpellier, in July 2011. The typical skill of Niquet when it comes to selecting singers - among who shine here are Maria Riccarda Wesseling and Andrew Foster-Williams - further helps to make this new operatic release a stimulating surprise for all lovers of the best in French music.
BBC Music Magazine, December 2012
Nicquet puts the drama at the top of his agenda, but also shows a strong sense of line and a gracious way with the dances...Vidal is attractive as the troubled Arzace. This is a passionate performance, well recorded and well delivered; a pity Cate offers us so little melody.
The Guardian, September 2012
Niquet's commitment to the piece is never in doubt, but the score is hamstrung by Catel's weakness as a melodist. The title role requires considerable histrionic powers, and Maria Riccarda Wesseling is impressive in it.
American Record Guide, March / April 2013
They share nobility, grandeur, monumentality. Le Concert Spiritual, period instruments and style, have recorded an exciting performance. It's elegant, with exquisitely-sung French.
Gramophone Magazine, November 2012
I find this opera's sound world immensely attractive... The performance by Niquet's original-instrument band seems especially well graded in melodramatic terms, the cast are uniformly strong and the live Montpellier concert recording effective.
International Record Review, February 2013
Herve Niquet sustains the development of the music up to the final act, with some euphonious playing and singing from Le Concert Spirituel.
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