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You may be able to think of some singers you would like to throw to the lions: Opera Rara’s latest CD release, Les Martyrs, does the job for you. Donizetti’s 1840 Parisian reworking of the unperformed Poliuto is the composer at his considerable best, rich with melody, striking orchestration and some exciting effects. Added to the composer’s expected Italianate lyricism one can hear Berlioz and Meyerbeer in this scoring, for example the startling chorus that opens the final scene. Mark Elder conducts with fervour, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment plays superbly and the cast is excellent. As Polyeucte and Pauline, a couple on the verge of a ‘conscious uncoupling’ until Christian martyrdom prevails, Michael Spyres and Joyce El-Khoury are thrilling, especially the soprano’s ascents to some elegantly spun pianissimi. David Kempster’s Sévère is confident, Brindley Sherratt’s Félix smooth, and they both relish the opportunities provided by Donizetti. No mauling here, this is a first-rate recording.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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