FANFARE magazine gave this release a strong recommendation, and based on that I purchased it. The label, EDICIONES SINGULARES, has been recording and releasing various rare French operas, mostly from the early 19th century. Charles-Simon Catel's LES BAYADERES dates from the flowering of the Napoleonic period, 1810, thus, roughly contemporary with Spontini's LA VESTALE. As the detailed notes in the elegant book accompanying this two CD set indicate, both works exercised influence in the development of French grand opera and opera comique. But Catel is far less known. This work, certainly, is a "bridge work," in that it fills in the blanks between, say, Gluck and Gretry (and perhaps at times even Mozart) and, further into the 19th century, to Daniel Francois Auber and Meyerbeer.
Like his contemporaries Mehul, Gossec, perhaps Cherubini, Catel foreshadows much of what we take for natural in later French opera. The writing for the voice is fluid, and falls easy on the ear. Indeed, it is very gracious...and ingratiating. As reviewers and the well-pointed book indicate, there are no "show stoppers" as we have become used to in works premiered later in the century. Yet, there is some very fine vocal work, all of which seems well integrated into a classically balanced, composed-through score.
All the principals execute extremely well. As the opera opens there is a lightness of touch that hearkens back to early French opera. But as events unfold, a seriousness pervades the music, reflecting the denouement of the action. All through it, Catel seems inspired to give us just the right sound, producing the right ambience. And that is no small accomplishment.
Orchestra, chorus, everything seem completely right. The elegant book includes several superb essays, a plot summary, a multi-lingual libretto, and track listing: in short all that one could wish for.
Certainly, this is a rarity, but anyone curious about the First Empire and the music that it produced should enjoy this....
Catel: Les Bayaderes CD, インポート