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Halévy is best known, if at all, for La Juive, so it’s a pleasure to hear another grand opera of his in La Reine de Chypre, an embroidered plot based on the life of the Venetian ruler of Cyprus in the 15th century, Caterina Cornaro (here, Catarina). With a libretto that inspired operas by contemporaries as diverse as Balfe, Lachner and Donizetti, Halévy had only a minor success with his version, reviewed at its premiere in 1841 by none less than Berlioz and Wagner, the latter surprisingly enthusiastically. It is a fine work, full of elegant arias, rousing ensembles, and providing the singers with opportunities to show off. It also demonstrates some delicacy of orchestration, highlighted by Hervé Niquet’s idiomatic conducting in this recording. The chorus is particularly excellent, and really makes its mark in the fourth act, singing with exciting precision. Véronique Gens is Catarina and her pliant soprano fits the music beautifully, clean and graceful of line. Tenor Cyrille Dubois adds to his growing reputation by conquering a role created by Duprez, high lying and flashy. Étienne Dupuis makes his mark as an even-toned Lusignan, an unevenly-written baritone role. Overall it is a great success, and, as ever with Palazzetto Bru-Zane releases, gorgeously and informatively presented.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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