Berlioz's Les nuits d'été has received some outstanding recordings over the years, prime among them those by Regine Crespin and Victoria de los Angeles. Here's a new one by Véronique Gens that belongs in their rarefied category. That should come as no surprise to admirers of her terrific Handel and French song discs. She sings with a light but expressive soprano that's fetching in itself and flexible enough to darken tones and lend emotional weight to the texts where called for. Her diction is impeccable, and the orchestral support is first-rate. The remainder of the disc is as good. The long dramatic scene, La mort de Cléopatre, is stunningly sung and played, Gens projecting the plight of the dejected queen with great intensity and vocal beauty. The three orchestral songs sparkle in Gens's renditions. The final one, "Zaïde," with its castanets and vivacious singing, will force you to keep hitting the repeat button. An unqualified recommendation!
Kiri Te Kanawa does well by these songs, avoiding the billowing excesses of sentiment that in other hands (or vocal chords) can make them sound much too soggy. Although Berlioz gathered them all together under the present title, all of the songs were composed at different times for different singers, so they aren't really a cycle at all. I seldom listen to all of them at once, and you should feel free to take them in any order that suits you. "The Death of Cleopatra" is an early cantata that perfectly suits Jessye Norman's stately delivery. She's always at her best playing royalty, and if they're dying in mortal agony, so much the better.
Robin Ticciati cements his reputation as an outstanding Berliozian with his latest recording, ‘Berlioz: Les nuits d’été’, which includes excerpts from Roméo & Juliette and La Mort de Cléopâtre. A pupil of Sir Simon Rattle and the great Berliozian Sir Colin Davis, Robin’s reputation as one of this generation's best conductors was assured when he was announced as the next music director of Glyndebourne, taking over from Vladimir Jurowski in 2014.
This release features a double bill of Massenet's Le Portrait de Manon and Berlioz's song cycle Les nuits d'ete, recorded from live staged performances at the Royal Opera House with artists from the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme and the Southbank Sinfonia led by Geoffrey Paterson and Volker Krafft. This is the first time the composers Massenet and Berlioz have appeared as part of the Opera Rara catalogue. The single-disc set comes with a lavishly illustrated book, including a complete libretto for Le Portrait de Manon and song translations for Les nuits d'ete, as well as detailed notes on both pieces written by the eminent musicologist Hugh Macdonald.
Ondine is delighted to announce a new release from star soprano Véronique Gens, who performs Herminie and Les Nuits d’été by Hector Berlioz and Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel with the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire under the baton of their music director John Axelrod.