“Heroique – French Opera Arias” [TrackList follows] – Bryan Hymel, tenor/ PKF Prague Philharmonia/ Emmanuel Villaume – Warner Classics 0825646179503, 72:54 *****:
There have been few periods to equal that of France in the early 1800s, musically speaking, at least when one considers compositions filled with turbulence and turmoil, passion and dramatic representations. In this era emerged what we now call the “Heroic” tenor, so-called because of the infused and wildly disparate emotional conflicts inherent in the often bombastic libretti, but mainly for the soaring tessitura and unbelievable demands put upon ideals of tonal quality and vocal agility—not to mention pure stamina!
The era stretched from Rossini, born in the 1700s, all the way to near mid-twentieth century with composers such as Bruneau and Rabaud, not household names by any means, but certainly experts in their art and of a generation influenced by the realism of Verdi and the harmonic advances of Wagner. Yet the thrilling aspects of the high voice are incorporated seamlessly and in a manner that fully finds itself in the earlier tradition. No matter which composer on this album you listen to, it is that one salient fact that cuts through styles and methodologies.
American tenor Bryan Hymel shows himself in this debut recording on Warner to be completely at home in every facet of the works presented. It’s not just the nineteen—yes, nineteen—high Cs that are stricken with all the confidence of Big Ben at high noon; it’s the gorgeous way he navigates the fully-laden melodic lines that are so part and parcel of this type of music. By its very nature such singing is exciting—that’s why we love tenors so much—but Hymel takes care to make sure that the message of the text is being put across in as faithful and genuine, and authentic a manner as is possible. He is certainly not stuck in this repertory, as his experience to this point in time shows a wide and diverse career in the making. But the French repertory has never been an easy nut to crack, and Hymel seems poised to set the standard for a new generation. Warner’s sound is vivid and warm.
Berlioz: La Damnation de Faust, Op. 24: Nature immense, impénétrable et fière; Inutiles regrets…En un dernier naufrage (from Les Troyens)
Bruneau: Le jour tombe, la nuit va bercer (from L’Attaque du Moulin)
Gounod: Faiblesse de la race humaine (from La Reine de Saba)
Massenet: Ne pouvant reprimer les elans de la foi (from Hérodiade)
Meyerbeer: Pays merveilleux… Ô paradis (from L’Africaine)
Rabaud: Chante vieux jardin ta chanson de cigale (from Rolande et le mauvais)
Reyer: Esprits gardiens (from Sigurd)
Rossini: Asile héréditaire (from Guillaume Tell)
Verdi: L’Emir auprès de lui m’appelle…Je veux encore entendre (from Jérusalem); E di Monforte il cenno!…Giorno di pianto (from I Vespri Siciliani)