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More cross-cultural misery, courtesy of a very young Reynaldo Hahn, who first composed L’Île du rêve when he was just 17 and studying composition under Massenet. It was based on a poem adapted from Pierre Loti’s 1880 novel Le Mariage de Loti, which also inspired Delibes’ Lakmé, another tale of a French man falling in love in a far-off land. In Loti’s case his amour was Tahitian and this is refl ected in Hahn’s opera. A few years later Hahn revised the work and divided it into acts for its premiere at the Opéra-Comique in 1898. A contemporary account describes the music as possessing a ‘misty and poetic colouring…[a] vague and melancholic character’, and I will not disagree. It is short and well-judged, finishing just as more would become too much of a good thing. Each act contains a luscious duet for soprano and tenor, and though not hugely memorable they are enjoyable. This recording makes as good a case for L’Île du rêve as it is likely to receive for the foreseeable future, and Hervé Niquet’s conducting is sensitive to the score’s beauties without allowing the piece to droop. Soprano Hélène Guilmette and tenor Cyrille Dubois sing their duets with elegance, and his Act III arioso is plangent.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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