Berlioz: Roméo et Juliette & Cléopâtre

About the album

”What makes Hector Berlioz such a great composer?”, asks conductor John Nelson. “In one word, originality … He broke all existing traditions of orchestration, structure, harmonic language and storytelling. Even today, his music is fresh, surprising us at every turn with inexpressible beauty.” Nelson now adds two more astonishingly original works by Berlioz – the ‘dramatic symphony’ Roméo et Juliette and the ‘lyric scene’ La Mort de Cléopâtre to his Erato discography. He continues the fruitful relationship with the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg, his choice for the recordings of Les Troyens, La Damnation de Faust, Harold en Italie and Nuits d’été. Joyce DiDonato, his unforgettable Didon and Marguerite, returns as the suicidal Cléopâtre and she is joined in Roméo et Juliette by tenor Cyrille Dubois (who was Iopas in Les Troyens), baritone Christopher Maltman, and the choruses of the Lisbon-based Gulbenkian Foundation and Strasbourg’s Opéra du Rhin.

Joyce DiDonato’s presence in both works is a major factor in the desirability of the new set. The cantata has been recorded in the past by both sopranos and mezzos, its in-between vocal range being where DiDonato’s high mezzo lies. She has the authority for the Egyptian queen in the darker strength of her lower notes, but also a soprano-like radiance as Cleopatra approaches death —vibrant from first note to last.

Financial Times

We know which Dido and which Marguerite Joyce DiDonato was already in this Strasbourg series. We will find her legato, her mastery of long Berliozian lines in the Lento cantabile , "Ah how far away these days are", and John Nelson breathes with her and makes the orchestra breathe in this staircase theme, whose mid-repeat -voice will be even more astonishing (with the coquetry of a pianissimo descending coloratura). The fierce pride of the queen, her pain, everything passes through the colors of the voice. The last words will graze the inaudible in an agony that the orchestra will watch out for… Long silences arranged by Nelson, an assumed dramatism right down to the last words “Cleopatra, by… leaving… life… becomes worthy of… Caesar again! » followed by the last sentence, also dying, of the double basses… All very inspired, and skilfully constructed. Great art.

Forum Opéra

Album info

Release date: March 31, 2023
Label: Erato