Olivier Messiaen - Saint François d'Assise (1999) [4-CD Box Set]

Posted By: peachfuzz
Olivier Messiaen - Saint François d'Assise (1999) [4-CD Box Set]

Olivier Messiaen - Saint François d'Assise (1999) [4-CD Box Set]
Classical | EAC (APE & CUE) | 1,016 MB

Nominated for the 2000 Grammy Award for "Best Opera Recording", Olivier Messiaen's St. Francis of Assisi, the grandest grand opera since Wagner's Parsifal, came into being in 1983, during the first Reagan Administration, when Men at Work topped the pop charts. Somehow, it has already acquired a historical aura, as if it were an antiquity whose head and paws are only now emerging from the sand. The artist who strives to create a work of everlasting genius faces many obstacles these days, not least a lack of popular demand. In the end, however, nothing stands in the way of immortality but a lack of mad ambition. Olivier Messiaen's St. Francis of Assisi is not easy listening. It is five hours long, devoutly Catholic in content, and by turns dissonant, jubilant, voluptuous, and austere. There are eight tableaux, each recording a stage in the life of the saint. Francis kisses a leper, speaks to the birds, receives the stigmata, dies in a state of suffering joy. The libretto, which Messiaen wrote himself, would have posed no problems for an audience of fourteenth-century Loire villagers. The music is something else again: a twentieth-century echo chamber in which prosaic turns of phrase acquire shattering overtones. The composer once remarked that he saw the Resurrection as an atomic explosion; likewise, his Francis has to undergo a death that sounds like the apocalypse—an experience that leaves one feeling strangely liberated.

José van Dam, who created the demanding title role in 1983, is a powerful presence in this live recording from the 1998 Salzburg Festival, and Dawn Upshaw―the lone female soloist in this baritone-dominated work―is appropriately radiant as the Angel. Conducted by Kent Nagano, who studied the score with the composer, this can be recommended to fans of Messiaen or to anyone interested in modern opera as a truly definitive recording.


John Aler (Tenor)
Dirk D'Ase (Vocalist)
Akos Banlaky (Vocalist)
José van Dam (Bass-Baritone)
Valérie Hartmann-Claverie (Ondes Martenot)
Dominique Kim (Ondes Martenot)
Tom Krause (Bass; Baritone)
Jeanne Loriod (Ondes Martenot)
Urban Malmberg (Vocalist)
Chris Merritt (Tenor)
Guy Renard (Tenor; Vocalist)
Dawn Upshaw (Soprano)

Arnold Schoenberg Choir & Hallé Orchestra
Kent Nagano, conductor


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