Fromental Halévy –La Reine de Chypre
CAST: Véronique Gens: Caterina Cornaro; Cyrille Dubois: Gérard de Coucy; Étienne Dupuis: Jacques de Lusignan; Éric Huchet: Mocenigo; Christophoros Stamboglios: Andréa Cornaro, Artavazd Sargsyan: Strozzi; Tomislav Lavoie: Un officier/Un Héraut d’armes
Flemish Radio Choir
Orchestre de chambre de Paris
Hervé Niquet, conduction
Ediciones Singulares, 2018
La Reine de Chypre was only one of Fromental Halévy’s several successes between the 1830s and 1840s. Together with La Juive (1835), L’eclair (1835) and Charles VI (1843), this was an opera that enhanced his reputation.
La Reine de Chypre (“The Queen of Cyprus”), to a libretto by Saint-Georges, premiered at the Paris Opera in 1841, featuring Rosine Stoltz as Caterina together with Gilbert Duprez as Gérard. It remained popular throughout the 19th century, as its many adaptations confirm. However, after that it disappeared and was only sporadically revived.
La Reine de Chypre: Overview
La Reine de Chypre is a very enjoyable opera. After all, many considered it Halévy’s finest achievement at the time of the premiere. The libretto provided him with contrasts of characters and settings which allowed him to put to the test his ingenuity.
While listening to it, it is easy to understand why other composers praised it. Berlioz wrote that the success of La Reine was equal to that of La Juive and Wagner too was thrilled. The scenes are well created and, musically speaking, there are many wonderful passages. The final scenes of each act are riveting, Caterina’s long scene in the second act and Gérard’s aria in the fourth are really impressive and the choruses are imposing and sumptuous. In this regard, it is much less comprehensible that, after the initial success, the opera has vanished from the stage.
This recording of La Reine de Chypre was made at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in June 2017.
La Reine de Chypre: the Performance
Véronique Gens (Caterina Cornaro)
There is only one woman in the cast, who sings the role of the Queen of Cyprus. At the time of the premiere it was the popular diva Rosine Stoltz who sang Caterina Cornaro and now it is the amazing soprano Véronique Gens. As in her other recordings (I remind of a recent one, Visions), Gens is flawless both musically and artistically. Her voice is extremely caressing especially in the middle register, and her high notes are shining and steady. Her diction, of course, is perfect and the luminosity of her timbre helps her to give to the words a radiant colour that makes her performance enchanting. Gens’s vocal commitment is equal to her dramatic power, which is noteworthy especially in the long scene at the beginning of the second act, which she sings with many nuances.
Cyrille Dubois (Gérard de Coucy)
Next to Gens, Cyrille Dubois is stunning as Gérard de Coucy. The tenor has a bright, flexible voice which blends very well with Gens’s (listen to their wonderful duet in Act I). He sings his role with intelligence and intensity and characterizes it with remarkable homogeneity.
Other Singers and Conduction
Étienne Dupuis as Lusignan is valuable for the velvet of his voice and for the elegance of his phrasing. Christophoros Stamboglios sings with stylishness and extreme smoothness. Furthermore, his dark, deep voice gives an aura of nobility to his Andréa Cornaro. Also Éric Huchet sings with extreme finesse the role of Mocenigo.
Hervé Niquet’s conduction is the icing on the cake. He conducts the Orchestre de chambre de Paris with exquisite taste and the sound of the orchestra is brilliant and intense.
Finally, one last note to praise the Flemish Radio Choir, which sings with skilfulness and transport a part which is almost as beautiful and important as those of the soloists.