Véronique Gens, the French Tragédienne

[wide][/wide] In one month (April 10), the great French soprano Véronique Gens will be at the Opera Comique, in Paris, for a single recital, presenting her recent album “Tragédiennes 3”.

The program is the third component of a cycle dedicated to the great Tragédiennes in the French opera. In this record we can meet Dido, Medea, Andromache and Iphigenia, already present in the first sections, but this time, cast in the musical rhetoric of further romantic opera.

Like its predecessors, this recital happily combines excerpts from famous operas (Les Troyens, Don Carlos, Herodiade) and a few forgotten gems that make us explore the margins of the repertoire, the interstices somewhat mysterious that show the history of music is more often marked by changes that by ruptures.

First, we discover Véronique Gens in an aria from Ariodante of Mehul, a beautiful aria, particularly expressive, which seems to announce the Italian cavatina. After that, Véronique sings a striking aria from Thésée, an opera of Gossec. Like Mehul, Gossec was a sort of official composer during the French Revolution. We have the impression that we’re hearing Gluck but something seems to already announce Berlioz or, rather, suggests that the author of Les Troyens was certainly very familiar with this repertoire.

From Saint-Saens, whose lyrical work has almost entirely been forgotten, Veronique Gens resurrects a beautiful melody: the complaint of Catherine of Aragon (from the opera Henry VIII). The recital also makes us discover an unknown page written by Auguste Mermet for his Roland de Ronceveaux (1864), who once again gathered all the ingredients of the great romantic air, agitated recitative, cantabile melody, storm, cabaletta, tutti and noisily coda.

Innate nobility, perfect diction, tragic inspiration, beauty of the vocal line…everything is here, and all the Veronique Gens lovers will succumb again to her beautiful talent in this French melodic art that is said to be so special. But here, we discover a darker diva, folding her dramatic soprano at a lower register of legendary singers who ensured the creation of these roles.

Always led passionately by Jean-Christophe Spinosi, the orchestra “Les Talens Lyriques” easily finds the romantic fever in this directory. I can only regret that the musicians sometimes cover Véronique and a there’s little lack of precision in some attacks.

The recital ends with the magnificent aria of Elisabeth, in Verdi’s Don Carlos “Thou above the vanity of greatness of this world”. Many divas have sung it before, most often in its Italian version. But I had never heard it performed in such a distressing way.

Video source: Youtube
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