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There were a few things orchestra-wise that seemed odd to me, but in a neutral way, like the
accompanigment accompaniment (damn French getting all up in my spelling) to Phillip’s “elle ne m’aime pas” which if my ears do not deceive me involves not a solo cello but rather a whole section of cellos. Weird.
But on a brighter note, the clarinettist in the first part of Carlos and Elizabeth’s “O bien perdu” duet did a very pretty job. The clarinet is prominent through the first part of the duet, where Carlos is singing; when Elizabeth comes in with “O dieu clément” the pattern the clarinet had is taken up by the violins. The clarinet bit involves both duetting with the tenor and several series of repeated notes at transitions, all of which this clarinettist, whoever he or she was, did very elegantly and expressively.
In an effort not to say wrong things about what is in the music, I dug out the score of the opera to look over the duet I just mentioned. There is a part of this duet, a little while after the aforementioned bit with the clarinet, that often gives me the cold shivers or even makes me cry. I had never followed the score while listening to it, so after I had nailed down the details with regard to that clarinet thing, I did. The picture above is the beginning of it. You can see that there is a key change, from (I think) B flat major to A flat major, and the harp (marked A., for ‘arp) comes in, but even so the music looks so simple when it’s written on the page. You can see how the wind parts go together, and what the strings are doing, which to the eye reading the page is nothing so complex – and yet the whole can be amazingly powerful.
But anyway. The orchestra and some of the instrumental soloists do have their moments. (In addition to the above, there’s also the orchestral introduction to the scene with the veil song, in which I could hear the various layers of the orchestral music all moving together at once – it was nice.) But the good parts were outweighed by that general feeling of murkiness or lack of clarity or failure of balance or whatever it was in the sound that I mentioned earlier.
The singing is . . .all right. André Turp as Carlos sounds solid and kind of dark-ish. It’s not unpleasant at all, and the French phrases roll out with a naturalness that I only really noticed when I listened to some bits of this over again while writing up my impressions. (Turp was – he died in 1991 – French Canadian.)
I was on the fence about Edith Tremblay (Elizabeth) and I still am kind of am. There is a quality to her voice that I found myself liking – sort of weighty and steely but smooth at the same time. I noticed it in the bit right before “o bien perdu,” for example; it leapt out at me at several other points as well. And in “toi che sus le néant” (a.k.a “tu che la vanità”) in Act V the sound was bright and ringing and forceful. She and Turp also do a bang-up job with the Carlos/Elizabeth duet that follows. But she occasionally sounds a bit harsh on the big high notes (maybe we can blame the recorded sound?) and there are places where I wanted her to make more dramatically of the material, like with Elizbaeth’s big soaring notes in the section of Act I where Elizabeth and Carlos realize just how in love they already are.
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