Boulevard des Italiens
This is a delightful CD—an hour of operatic excerpts from operas written for Paris by Italians: arias by Spontini, Cherubini and Donizetti, French versions of Verdi and Puccini and an aria from Mascagni's almost forgotten Amica.
The earliest excerpt is from Spontini's La Vestale (1807) chosen as perfect illustration of the shift towards new lyric and expressive goals. The latest (1906) is the Mascagni aria, a piece of pure Italian verismo written in French, and a piece from Madame Butterfly which was a complete revision supervised by the composer. The publisher Ricordi then had it translated back into Italian with it then becoming the definitive version.
Benjamin Bernheim has a distinct, light French voice with a good range and able to tackle the high notes effortlessly. Le Monde goes further and describes his voice as "sumptuous with fiery sensitivity and poetic musicality".
Whatever the precise description, opera lovers interested in this period of Franco-Italian co-operation will enjoy this fascinating disc.
Reviewer: Paul Foss