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Continuing the French theme is a rarity, L’Aiglon, composed by Ibert (Acts I and V) and Honegger (Acts II and IV), combining for Act III. Premiered in 1937, it is absolutely delicious, a gorgeous song of melody and orchestration: think Massenet at his most luscious crossed with a particularly vivid film score and you have idea. Based on Rostand’s play, it’s the bittersweet story of the titular Napoleon II, Duke of Reichstadt and King of Rome, who, as a child had briefly succeeded his father as Emperor of the French. It follows his life in Austria, his attempts to regains his throne with his supporter Flambeau, his love for the fictional Thérèse and his death in exile aged 21. There has been no complete recording until this, and it was worth the wait. Kent Nagano conducts in a flurry of strings, but also pares down the emotions as the piece gets darker. Anne-Catherine Gillet really seizes her chances as L’Aiglon, her soprano vibrant and emotional, and I feel that she does the role’s creator, Fanny Heldy, proud – her voice has a forward-placed ease that speaks eloquently. Marc Barrard is an excellent Flambeau and Hélène Guilmette a stylish Thérèse. In fact, a Francophone cast ensures that there’s an idiomatic sheen to the whole event. I hope that its obscurity doesn’t stop this from flying off the shelves.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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