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le 14 mai 2009
Cet opéra de Meyerbeer, trop rarement joué, est effectivement une belle redécouverte. Il est dommage toutefois que la prise de son au festival de Wexford soit un peu "loin". Il existe, paraît-il, dans les archives de la firme "opera rara" une autre version de cette oeuvre, qui, hélas, n'a pas fait l'objet d'un report en disque compact
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le 24 octobre 2011
Meyerbeer's first opéra-comique is work of great originality and charm. Even after the huge success of Le Prophète (1849), he was determined to realize this lifelong dream, and write a comic opera and L'Étoile du nord was the result. It is a brilliant 'military' opera, the story of Peter the Great's love for the Livonian peasant girl Catherine, turned into a fable of romantic love and dream fulfilment. The Star of the North becomes a symbol of Catherine's glorious future as saviour of the tsar and crowned empress. The two thematic worlds are reflected in the overlapping spheres of romance and realism'the Karelian village with its dreams and games and weddings, and the Russian military camp with its harsh behaviour, debauchery, cruelty, conspiracy and betrayal. Meyerbeer's use of the symbolic themes, like the beautiful extended and gentle Theme of the Star, and the proud and pompous series of marches in act 2, each capture a particular world.
In this 1996 recording of L'Etoile du Nord the brilliant soprano Elizabeth Futral sings Catherine with accomplishment. This is now it is now among the most played of my opera collection. Meyerbeer should not be so neglected' the music is quite lovely, the melodies memorable, the choruses stirring, and the arias, particularly Catherine's various pieces, outrightly thrilling. Her charming entrance aria, prayer and barcarolle, the duet with Prascovia, and the famous Mad Scene, culminating in the aria with two flutes written for Jenny Lind, are all of the greatest originality and beauty (see also the U-Tube of Sumi Jo in this legendary piece). The disadvantage is that it is a "live" recording (from the Wexford Festival) so that the sound is not as full as could be. Principals seem to wander out of effective reach of the microphones from time to time. Some of the other voices are less than great: while Vladimir Ognev is superbly resonant as Peter the Great, the three tenor voices leave something to be desired, notably the ability to reach and hold the higher notes without too much vibrato. Nevertheless, the comic impersonation of Aled Hall as Peter's henchman Danilowitz is very well done, and the big buffo trio in act 3, with Peter and two of the tenors is a tour de force. The price of the CD is justified to hear Meyerbeer's fascinating score and also to hear Futral's assumption of the role of Catherine..
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