The full forces of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, three choirs and sixteen hand-picked soloists united on 15 and 17 April 2017 under the baton of veteran Berlioz specialist John Nelson for two five-hour concerts of the epic opera Les Troyens ('The Trojans'), in what Forum Opéra has already declared 'the music event of the year' and 'The Troyens of the century'. Erato had the honour of recording this French operatic milestone for release in November 2017.
Some 239 musicians were present on and around the stage in surround sound formation in Strasbourg's state-of-the-art Salle Érasme at the Palais de la Musique et des Congrès. American conductor John Nelson, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1974 replacing an indisposed Rafael Kubelik in Les Troyens, has championed this grand opera for more than forty years, and has performed it more than any other conductor. Now, at last, this indefatigable musician is at the helm of a predominantly French cast of rising stars and established artists, showcasing the finest singers of the French opera firmament, including mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa, baritone Stéphane Degout, bass Nicolas Courjal and tenors Stanislas de Barbeyrac and Cyrille Dubois.
Headlining this formidable Who's Who, in the three principal roles, were American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and tenor Michael Spyres (Didon and Énée), and French-Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux as the doomed prophetess Cassandre.
Alain Lanceron, president of Warner Classics & Erato, said: 'Recording Berlioz's Les Troyens is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This monumental work, long considered unplayable, requires exceptional forces on all fronts: orchestra, choirs and numerous soloists, three of which take on the most demanding roles in French opera. The triumph of the concerts in Strasbourg promises a reference recording that will set a new landmark in the discography.'
'It was with great emotion that we at Erato witnessed pioneering Berlioz conductor John Nelson at the podium of a transcendent Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the combined choirs of the Opéra National du Rhin, the Philharmonique de Strasbourg and the Badischer Staatsopernchor. The all-star cast led by Joyce DiDonato, Marie-Nicole Lemieux and Michael Spyres - all three in major role debuts - was surrounded by the crème de la crème of unique talents in the French school of opera: a stellar line-up that has already entered the annals of history! We are grateful to all the musicians and the recording team for their commitment to this unforgettable adventure.'
Joyce DiDonato added: 'It has been a gift to return to making music with John Nelson, in particular on this momentous occasion of his return to the epic journey of Les Troyens. I cannot imagine creating the role of Didon with a more heartfelt, masterful baton in the lead. It has been an absolute highlight of my musical life, and I am honoured to have been a part of this incredible team of orchestra, chorus and superlative soloists. This is a recording I will treasure - for the music-making and for the beautiful souvenirs of these days in Strasbourg.'
'To sing with Joyce, Michael and this dream cast was and a gift and a true pleasure. We were involved in this incredible music with all our hearts because we admire John Nelson's vision so much. I hope I served Berlioz well!', enthused Marie-Nicole Lemieux.
'I have the enormous privilege of conducting one of the greatest operas in the repertoire with an almost entirely French cast for a quintessentially French opera, which has never been done before. I can't dream of a better cast than this', said John Nelson. 'The Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg has the perfect sound for this music: Germanic discipline with the élan and beauty of the French sound. We hope this will be a recording that will last through the ages.'
Erato has recorded Berlioz's complete Les Troyens in Strasbourg for release in November 2017.
Posted: 1 May 2017
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