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Unusually, two Meyerbeer recordings come along at the same time, neither typical of the Grand Opéra genre that brought the composer untold fame in his day. Meyerbeer lived in Italy for eight years before moving to Paris where he hit upon his winning formula with Robert le Diable, and went on to premiere six operas while there. First, we have a recording of Emma di Resburgo (1819), the third of these, taken from a concert in Vienna in 2010. Meyerbeer is often dismissed as over-absorbing Rossini’s influence, and it’s hard not to compare Emma and its Scottish setting with La donna del lago; but the composer is finding his own voice, relishing darker orchestral colours and building large ensembles (the Act I sextet is a winner), while already indulging his propensity for some clonking key changes. This performance is so-so. The German soprano Simone Kermes meanders through the title role in a seeming daze and blanched voice. Vivica Genaux livens things up as Edemondo, her mezzo ripe and punchy. The rest of the cast is adequate; the orchestra, under Andreas Stoehr, possesses an unsettling hesitancy.

Meyerbeer’s opéra comique Dinorah is and his last completed stage work. Here is another recording taken from concerts, this time in Berlin, 2014. Dinorah went through several versions, and this recording takes its material from the premiere in 1859 (as Le Pardon de Ploërmel), with its mixture of speech and song. It’s an uneven piece and one can see why prima donnas love to sing it in excerpt rather than in staged performance: one aria is warbled to her pet goat, another sung and danced to her own shadow – the mind boggles. Patrizia Ciofi does the honours here, and very well too, her bell-like voice tinkling prettily through the music. Étienne Dupuis and Philippe Talbot are both good as Hoël and Corentin, the dodgy hero and his even dodgier sidekick, who leave Dinorah to her loopy caprine caperings in pursuit of treasure. She regains her sanity, of course, although one does have to wonder as she actually marries the creep. Enrique Mazzola conducts with style, though the opera itself has but a pallid charm.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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