Another Delightful Rarity From Compiegne
James S. Eisenberg | 03/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The revival of rare French operas seems to be Compiegne's specialty. This opera company, presumably with large government grants, is making a significant survey of the forgotten byways of Gallic vocal art.
Auber's HAYDEE is a real charmer which mixes lovely tunes, piquant orchestration, swashbuckling adventure, an interesting psychological take on addictive behavior (in this case gambling), and all obstacles overcome by selfless love.
The two female leads are taken by Compiegne's resident divas, Isabelle Philippe, a fine coloratura as the title character, a Greek slave girl who wins the love of the Doge by her steadfastness, and Anne Sophie Schmidt, a lovely French lyric soprano as the general/Doge's ward. Philippe is not quite as good here as she was in the DVD of Meyerbeer's DINORAH. The part seems to lie very low for a coloratura. It seems to be
a mezzo-soprano part onto which some high notes have been melded so that it can be taken by a higher voice. Despite weakness at the bottom, she makes a strong impression and focuses beautifully at the top. She is also a very appealing actress, as is Schmidt. (There is a lovely CD on the Cascavelle label of Philippe in scenes from the current work, DINORAH and Halevy's CHARLES VI which has never been released here. It is well worth seeking out, considering the rarity of the Auber and Halevy works.) Tenor Bruno Comparetti is really fine in the role of the guilt wracked Doge whose gambling problems have negatively affected both the others and himself. His dream/mad scene is particularly fine. His voice is not beautiful, but he makes up for it with solid technique and dramatic involvement. Second tenor Mathias Vidal brings lovely tone and a lively stage presence to the "matinee idol" role. His singing of the cabaletta-like opening section of a quartet for two sopranos and two tenors in the first act is one of the highlights of the work. Bass-Baritone Paul Medioni is a splendidly creepy and unctuous villain. Conductor Swierczewski clearly loves this work and brings both fine dramatic pacing and lovely detailing to the work of the Orchestre Alberic Magnard.
The production is solidly old fashioned, a visually delightful recreation of Venice in the late eighteenth century.
Despite too small a chorus, director Pierre Jourdan fills the stage with lots of action and arresting tableaux."