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Ben Heppner, London Symphony Orchestra, Myung-Whun Chung - French Opera Arias (2001)

Posted By: tirexiss
Ben Heppner, London Symphony Orchestra, Myung-Whun Chung - French Opera Arias (2001)

Ben Heppner, London Symphony Orchestra, Myung-Whun Chung - French Opera Arias (2001)
WEB | FLAC (tracks) - 322 MB | 01:14:14
Genre: Classical | Label: Deutsche Grammophon

A few decades from now, someone will put together a series of recordings devoted to “the greatest tenors of the 21st century”. Will Ben Heppner be featured on one of these? Most likely more than one. What other conclusion can you reach after hearing these splendiferous performances of French arias, presented as the Canadian singer’s debut under his new, exclusive DG contract? To begin with, there’s nothing really typical about this recital, from the choice of repertoire–extended arias from some of the less-traveled operatic territory–to this revered label’s confirmation of big-budget stature on an artist who’s neither a “three tenor” nor a singer under the age of 14. No, this is really grown-up stuff, and Heppner proves not only a seasoned and commanding presence, but an artist of the highest magnitude, with the vocal equipment and musical intelligence to at once rivet an audience to its seats and compel it to spontaneously rise in a collective ovation.

Not one of these arias is a safe walk in the park for any tenor; all require a marathon runner’s stamina and demand extremes of technique and range. Only a singer in top form and with a voice that’s both powerful and versatile will successfully negotiate, for example, the tortuous phrases (and high B-flats, Bs, and D-flat) of “Seul pour lutter” from Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini–which Heppner does with virtually no strain (and apparently no fear). He really takes us inside these scenes, thanks in part to the length of most of the selections; but it’s primarily his confident dramatic sense and his ability to communicate that gives an impression of a live stage presentation rather than a studio effort. Listen to how Heppner movingly portrays the tormented emotions of the father in the 11-minute-long “Rachel, quand du Seigneur” from Halévy’s La Juive, and to how he captures the prayerful mood of Massenet’s “Ô Souverain, ô juge, ô père”, and then elevates this lovely melody and its character’s compelling spiritual vision to one of the more affecting displays of pure vocal artistry that you’ll ever hear.

The singing is consistently grand and eloquent, rich in tone, unflagging in quality and smooth as glass across registers, showing as good an example as you’ll find of a singer well-matched with material. Not surprisingly, Heppner’s heroes are Fritz Wunderlich and Jussi Bjoerling, and in this singer’s every note and phrase you can hear the lyricism, textual awareness, and consummate musicality that’s a tribute to those legends. And just when you’re suspecting that he’s got even more in reserve, Heppner confirms it with a majestically swelling crescendo or burst of power that soars in perfect complement to his equally impressive soft, tender moments. The disc’s last track, Berlioz’s wildly wonderful arrangement of La Marseillaise, is a brilliant if slightly quirky finale. Myung-Whun Chung is a splendid collaborator who gives full rein to his orchestra where required but never fails to give the ultimate power and glory to the singer. The one disappointment here is the sound: the orchestra is strangely recessed and constricted, which gives the recording an old-timey ambience that doesn’t suit the repertoire or conform to the standard of today’s best digital engineering. However, that condition didn’t stop me from listening to this at least five of six times already–and I’m certain it won’t prove an obstacle to anyone who wants to get in on a chance to hear one of the 21st century’s greatest tenors without waiting 20 or 30 years for those special tribute recordings to come out.

Track List:

Les Troyens / Act 5 (Hector Berlioz)
1. No.41 Récitatif mesuré et air: "Inutiles regrets" - "Ah! quand viendra" 06:15
La Damnation de Faust, Op.24 / Part 4 (Hector Berlioz)
2. Scène 16. Invocation à la Nature. "Nature immense" 05:45
La Damnation de Faust, Op.24 / Part 3 (Hector Berlioz)
3. Scène 8. Air de Faust. "Merci, doux crépuscule!" 05:08
Benvenuto Cellini / Act 2 (Hector Berlioz)
4. "Seul pour lutter, seul avec mon courage" 08:12
Béatrice et Bénédict / Act 1 (Hector Berlioz)
5. "Ah! Je vais l'aimer" 02:35
La Juive / Act 4 (Jacques Fromental Halevy)
6. "Rachel, quand du Seigneur la grâce tutélaire" 10:55
Sapho Pièce lyrique en 5 actes / Acte 1 (Jules Massenet)
7. Ah, qu'il est loin, mon pays 04:16
Le Cid / Act 3 (Jules Massenet)
8. O Souverain, ô juge, ô pére 05:35
Le Cid / Act 1 (Jules Massenet)
9. O noble lame éticelante 04:57
L'Africaine / Act 4 (Giacomo Meyerbeer)
10. "Pays merveilleux … O paradis" (sung in French) (Vasco) 06:21
Les Huguenots / Act 1 (Giacomo Meyerbeer)
11. Plus blanche 06:18
Le prophète / Act 3 (Giacomo Meyerbeer)
12. Roi du Ciel 03:47
La Marseillaise (Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle)
13. Rouget de Lisle: La Marseillaise - Selected verses in order vs 1/6/5 04:10

Performers:
Ben Heppner (tenor)
London Symphony Orchestra
Chung, Myung-Whun (conductor)

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