This production resuscitates Gounod s original composition, largely forgotten. A triumph for Minkowski, conducting at the Opera national de Paris, it attracted more than 1 million viewers when broadcast on TV! No competition on DVD or Bluray At last, Mireille one of the most original works of the 19th century has found its rightful place at the Palais Garnier. In 1854, a young Provençal poet, Fredéric Mistral, founded a literary association with a few other people, the aim of which was to uphold and illustrate its language and culture. They called this school Félibrige, a word of mysterious origin - a blend of joy, books and freedom. In 1859, he took things one step further and gave Félibrige its battle flag and masterpiece, Miréio, a vast epic love poem. As it happened, Gounod, whose Faust was created that year, read Mireille shortly after publication and was full of enthusiasm and went to Saint-Rémy de Provence to seek out this passionate music. Due to its singularity and density, the work has had a difficult career and was revised and altered several times. In 1939, Guy Ferrant and Henri Busser, disciples of Gounod, restored the original and Mireille was finally restored from the fine midsummer's morning and its dancing to the gripping scene in the desert-like Crau region.
The production and video direction are by British film-maker Ken Russell who puts his own stamp on the production. Russell told an interviewer he felt the plot was "silly" so he turned Marguerite into a young nun, eliminated the Walpurgis Night ballet, had Marguerite use sign-language for Valentin's deaf-mute children, and had Mephistopheles disrespectfully urinating in the stoup in church. However, the overall effect is visually engrossing, the vivid sets and costumes by Karl Toms are effective. And the singing is outstanding. Tenor Francisco Araiza handles the title role with confidence. Ruggero Raimondi, while he may not have the impressive lower register of many devils of the past, is a superb actor. Soprano Gabriela Benackova is in magnificent voice as the innocent Marguerite, and other major roles are impressively sung.
Here from the iconic Verona arena is Charles Gounod’s masterpiece Roméo & Juliette, performed there for the first time since 1977. This new production was entrusted to Italian director Francesco Micheli, making his arena debut, who opted for a personal, highly original version: “An arena within the Arena, like a blood-red Elizabethan theatre. A senescent world that will not let its own children live.”
…The great saving aspect of this performance surprisingly comes from Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, who identifies herself totally with the role both vocally and dramatically.
Her King Thule ballad, the Jewel Song, her duets with Faust and the last scene are all delivered with great aplomb, and she really looks the part with a stunningly pure looking stage presence.
This production isn't appealing, with a French grand opera being cut to the bare bones, but it could have been much worse. The conducting is fine, and generally speaking on the musical side this is a sterling piece, though there are significant cuts and the Walpurgis Scene is non-existent. By A. F. S. Mui
The Romantic Piano Concerto series reaches 62 and makes an interesting (although temporary) departure: these four works are for pedal piano (a piano which includes a separate keyboard for the feet, to be played rather in the manner of an organ). Gounod was inspired by the talent of the young and apparently very attractive Lucie Palicot (born circa 1860) whom he heard performing Alkan’s music for pedal piano in 1882. Gounod is far better known for his operatic and liturgical compositions: these works show a different side to this nineteenth-century luminary….
What a charming opera this is. There are many beautiful melodies which, for Gounod, is not surprising. Mirella Freni has exactly what Mireille needs, a spinto voice with agility and charm. Only one minor blip at the beginning of the opera finds her hoarse on one note. Should have been fixed. This is a difficult role and friends of Gounod thought it was unsingable for a purely lyric voice of the first Mireille. -Amazon-
This is French opera at his best, before this authentic style was gone: beautiful silver tones from a now lost period. I bought this record more than 40 years ago and it is still unpassed.