About the album
BERLIOZ: LES TROYENS
Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Stéphane Degout, Nicolas Courjal, Marianne Crebassa, Hanna Hipp, Cyrille Dubois, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Philippe Sly, John Nelson, Choeur de l’Opéra du Rhin, Badischer Staatsopernchor, Choeur philharmonique de Strasbourg
Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg
*BBC Music Magazine – 2018 Award Winner “Best Opera Recording”
Taken from concert performances in Strasbourg that were described as “the musical event of the year”, this recording of Berlioz’s epic Les Troyens presents the score absolutely complete. John Nelson, unrivalled in his authority in this mighty work, conducts a cast led by Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Cassandre, Joyce DiDonato as Didon and Michael Spyres as Énée.
This new Erato recording of the complete, uncut score of Les Troyens is drawn from two concert performances that took place over the Easter weekend in April 2017 in the city of Strasbourg in eastern France. A magnificent cast of singers, predominantly Francophone, assembled under the baton of John Nelson, an acknowledged master of Berlioz’s music who has conducted Les Troyensmore frequently than anyone else over a period of more than 40 years; he made his name with the piece when he led performances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1974 and enjoyed great acclaim for a production at the Frankfurt Opera shortly before the Strasbourg concerts.
Release date: November 24, 2017
“Joyce DiDonato is Didon. Her probity as an artist informs the character, and her serious approach suggests the queen’s aristocratic nature. But her portrayal is also distinguished by its emotional transparency, her quick vibrato indicating the beating heart beneath the regal exterior. The dignity of DiDonato’s approach in Acts III and IV makes Didon’s disintegration in Act V all the more shocking; when she lashes out in searing rage at Aeneas, it registers as a cataclysmic fall from grace. DiDonato has long been one of opera’s most winning performers, but here she shows herself an epic tragedienne.”
“For DiDonato, Didon marks a watershed: she has done nothing finer on disc. This is singing in the Janet Baker/Lorraine Hunt Lieberson class, but I doubt either of those great Didons rose to the emotional extremes of suicidal despair that the American mezzo does here.”
“Joyce DiDonato is by turns fiery and sensuous as the legendary Carthaginian queen, the silvery top of her voice adding an unusual vulnerability.”
“Michael Spyres and Joyce DiDonato are perfectly suited as the doomed lovers Aeneas and Dido, moving tragically from the almost supernaturally charged harmonic bliss of their Act IV love-duet to the spitting venom of the Act V break-up and then (with DiDonato summoning every ounce of her theatricality) the final curse on the departing Trojans.”
“If only Berlioz had lived to hear this… Joyce DiDonato sings her first Didon with a persistent sense of intense vulnerability – her final monologue is a heart-rending exposure of a soul in despair.”
The Daily Telegraph
“…it’s always a special thrill to hear a singer who seemed to be already at the peak of their powers undergo a sea-change, and that’s exactly what we experience here with DiDonato. The process of working on this role seems to have unleashed darker colours and a formidable ‘blade’ in her silvery mezzo; her French diction is idiomatic and incisive, and she captures every nuance of Carthage’s ‘queen of hearts’, from the tremulous erotic thrill of her first encounter with Énee to her scorching suicide-scene. I’ve never heard her sound better, which is saying a great deal.”
“One of the best opera releases of last year was a complete recording of Berlioz’s Les Troyens.
Perhaps best of all is Joyce DiDonato’s Didon, warm and sensual, her final pages truly the stuff of great tragedy.”
“When it comes to Joyce DiDonato and Michael Spyres, the word that immediately springs to mind is ‘souplesse’ (flexibility, suppleness). DiDonato’s Didon moves from the commanding to the emotionally wrought whilst Spyres’ Enée is lithe and heroic. But it is the suppleness of their line which I came to enjoy, just listen to the beautifully shaped love duet which concludes Act Four.
Joyce DiDonato is fabulous in the way she conveys Didon’s welter of emotions, moving from whiplash command to emotional wreck on the turn of a pin, but always within the classicism of Berlioz’ writing. Parts of the role might take her to her limits, but she never makes the line bulge or explode, the emotion is writing the music and the ending is heartrending.”
Presto Recordings of the Year, Finalist 2017
Presto Recording of the Week, 24th November 2017
Awarded the Gramophone Classical Music Award for Opera
“Michael Spyres is a colossus as Énée, in gripping, inexhaustible voice with thrilling top notes that have real ping. In Carthage, he falls for Joyce DiDonato’s noble Didon – and who can blame him? The American mezzo sings with tender ecstasy in their ‘Nuit d’ivresse’ love duet, yet summons up a vehement response to Énée’s desertion.”
Awarded Opus Klassik‘s “Opera recording of the year”
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"... it’s Joyce DiDonato’s Dido who hogs the spotlight for the rest of the opera – the three acts that make up The Trojans at Carthage ... its dramatic commitment is undeniable, and Dido’s final aria is a tremendous emotional tour de force. ... this is now unquestionably the version of Berlioz’s masterpiece to have at home."The Guardian