Berlioz’s Les Troyens wins Gramophone’s 2018 Recording of the Year Award

‘A peach of a recording’ is how I signed off my original review of this account of Berlioz’s Les Troyens last December – ‘a thrilling new benchmark for this epic opera’. I completely stand by that assessment today – this set from Erato is an absolute stunner. I attended the second of two concert performances in Strasbourg last year from which the recording was taken (along with a patching session). Not only was it my outstanding concert of 2017, the resulting set was easily my disc of the year too.

Recordings of Les Troyens don’t come along every year, or even every decade. At four hours, it’s not on the scale of The Ring (although Wagner splits his cycle across four evenings) but is still a massive undertaking for any opera company to put together a cast capable of doing it full justice. This season, for example, just two companies – the Wiener Staatsoper and the Opéra de Paris – take up the challenge, and both productions feature singers who appeared on this winning recording. Perhaps this is one explanation of why Erato’s set is such a great achievement: no opera house could possibly field such a splendid cast.

The surprising thing is that – with the exception of Hanna Hipp, who sang Anna at Covent Garden in 2013 – all the singers were making their role debuts. The first half, ‘The Fall of Troy’, is dominated by the French-Canadian Marie-Nicole Lemieux, whose burnt-caramel contralto and dramatic flair make for a wild, unhinged Cassandre, partnered by the stylish baritone Stéphane Degout as Chorèbe. 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. Then take a look at the ‘minor’ roles: Marianne Crebassa, Cyrille Dubois, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Philippe Sly … a true embarrassment of riches assembled by Erato’s Alain Lanceron with John Nelson.

But the highest accolade is due to the man on the podium. John Nelson told me he’d picked the Strasbourg Philharmonic, on the Alsatian border, for its combination of French colour and German discipline. Nelson has conducted more performances of Les Troyens than anyone else in the past four decades and that experience is vital in this truly remarkable recording.

Gramophone

15 hours ago

Please join the Brentano String Quartet and me for this live-streamed event, and discover this haunting, evocative… https://t.co/J7ze3ixGe0

19 hours ago

You are welcome......most welcome https://t.co/uo8AmJnLnu

23 hours ago

Ich auch .... https://t.co/6ePrU4wBLo

FOLLOW Joyce DiDonato

Please join the Brentano String Quartet and me for this live-streamed event, and discover this haunting, evocative cycle by Jake Heggie, "Into the Fire”. Photo: @chrissingerme @wqxr_classical @medici.tv @warner_classics @greenespacenyc

The joy and privilege of bringing this program with this orchestra and this maestro to @carnegiehall is immeasurable! Hope you can be there!! @philorch @nezetseguin #Chausson #DeadLeaves #Roses #Lilacs #Love #Loss #PainfulBeauty #SublimePartnership @nkodamusic

Thanks to all who came out to catch the @sonyclassics film #MariaByCallas! It was thrilling to experience her story with you all in this city that she so loved - and which loved her so!

It is so special to be back in #Philly and to be making music with the #INCREDIBLE @philorch and the divine @nezetseguin. The splendid fall leaves and colors are the perfect inspiration and backdrop for our concerts this weekend of Chausson’s “Poemes de l’amour et de la mer”, exploring the loss of love and life, dead leaves, general despair. I hope you’ll be able to join if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, or at @carnegiehall on Tuesday!! #deadleavesarestillravishing

It shouldn’t take #Einstein to convince you to get out and #vote...but in case it does....voilà!

For the record . . .

It has been a wonderful experience giving voice to the letters of Maria Callas for this highly acclaimed film. Hope to see you in NY for these special viewings! @mariabycallas #mariacallas @tomvolf @angelikafilmcenterny

Heartfelt thanks to all of you for joining in for the experience of Les Troyens tonight, and throughout the run. It has been a pivotal experience of my artistic life to arrive here with this beautiful role and extraordinary opera. I shall never forget it. Thank you to the lovely @catecool for the photo.

Coming to you, LIVE, from the @wienerstaatsoper today with Berlioz’s epic telling of “Les Troyens”. Singing the Queen Didon has been an enormous gift, and I hope to be able to share it with you today on the livestream (available for an additional 72 hours). Where will YOU be watching from? Link: https://bit.ly/2qpSdza *Qui connut la souffrance ne pourrait voir en vain souffrir ... *

Follow Joyce on Instagram

There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.

~ Joyce DiDonato