CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921): Hélène, Nuit Persane, Op. 26b.
Catalogue Number: 09K056
Reference: MR 301114-2
Description: Except for Samson et Delila, Saint-Saëns' operas are generally ignored so, even though it's a short one, the 1903 Hélène, to his own libretto, is a welcome arrival. Its subject is in the Classicizing period which Saint-Saëns found refuge in as music evolved beyond his conservative tastes yet this is one of his most ardent and emotional works, treating Helen as an innocent young woman victimized by Aphrodite (who, as Vénus, also appears, along with Pallas Athene to make up four roles). The half-hour long song-cycle Nuit Persane dates from 1870 and sets the decadently atmospheric texts of Renaud with marvellously colorful orchestration. The deluxe packaging is designed as a hard-bound book of 100 pages with articles on the Helen myth, the lure of the east on Saint-Saëns, Nellie Melba (the namesake of this label and the creator of the role of Hélène) and, the longest, a conductor's note which provides all kinds of subtle and interesting information, leading us through the two works track by track. 2 CDs. French-English libretto and texts. Rosamund Illing (soprano), Steve Davislim (tenor), Leanne Kenneally, Zan McKendree-Wright (mezzos), Belle Époque Chorus, Orchestra Victoria; Guillaume Tourniaire. SACD hybrid.