Composed by multi-award-winning artist Michel Legrand and written by American poets Alan & Marilyn Bergman, this album is made up of a cycle of songs. It tells the story of a woman s life from birth to death, passing by all of its highlights: childhood, adolescence, first love, and motherhood. Composed and written in the 70 s, the project was never completed. Thanks to Natalie's input, Michel Legrand rewrote the score and Alan & Marilyn Bergman rewrote the lyrics especially for her in order to give a second life to this project. This masterpiece was recorded last September in London at the Air Studio with the London Studio Orchestra, conducted by Michel Legrand.
Handel's operas–the center of his creative life before oratorios became the focus–have spent far too long in limbo awaiting rediscovery, which slowly started happening in the late '60s with works such as Giulio Cesare. But whether Handelian opera is still a novelty or you're already a rabid convert, this emotionally resonant, crisply played, superbly cast interpretation under William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is likely to shake up some of your ideas about the composer.
Mozart's concert arias are not really generically independent from his operas. They were mostly written for insertion into operas by a singer, often Mozart's girlfriend and then sister-in-law Aloysia Weber, who wanted to display her talents to their best advantage. As such, however, they stand out from other operatic arias as some of the most difficult vocal pieces Mozart composed.
The glamorous young French coloratura stunned everyone at the EMI Gala at Glyndebourne in 1997 with a dazzling rendition of Cunegonde’s ‘Glitter and be gay’ from Bernstein’s Candide: it was an unexpected choice but Dessay delivered it with such wit, needle-point precision and sheer insouciance that she won all hearts. Why she has yet to appear in either a Glyndebourne or Covent Garden production – though debuts are planned in both theatres for 2002 – is one of the great mysteries of British operatic life, for Dessay, as her EMI album of French operatic arias (5/97) amply demonstrated, is an acclaimed star in Vienna, Salzburg, the New York Met and, of course, the French capital, where she is something close to a cult figure.
Originating by way of an Aix-En-Provence Festival staging, William Christie and his Arts Florissants bring dramatic flair and musical panache to Mozart's great late Singspiel in equal measure. To begin with, there's a dream cast led by the alluring pairing of Hans Peter Blochwitz as Tamino and Rosa Mannion as Pamina. Anton Scharinger makes for an earthy Papageno, Reinhard Hagen is a commanding Sarastro, whilst Natalie Dessay's input as Queen of the Night comes over in both her showpiece arias as steadfast and electrifying. The casting in depth continues: rare is a Magic Flute that can boast singers of the calibre of Willard White and Linda Kitchen in the relatively small roles of Speaker and Papagena. Then, the uniformly warm vocal blend is homogeneously matched, note for note, with the gut strings and less aggressive winds of Les Arts Florissants. Not that there's anything limp or lacklustre about Christie's brisk tempi; whilst sharp editing maintains the theatrical urgency. The melliflously played "magic" flute and exact keyed glockenspiel input for Papageno's bells are further examples of the care which has gone into this state of the art "authentic" interpretation. With a work like The Magic Flute, recorded choices are voluminous. Neville Marriner with his Academy of St Martins-in-the-Fields on Phillips puts in a brave showing, but William Christie maybe wins out in a thorough interpretation which simultaneously celebrates the opera's joy and mystery. –Duncan Hadfield