Not simply a recital: more a celebration of the feminine spirit by one of its most sympathetic admirers.
This disc offers most listeners the experience of more than 74 minutes of music by an acknowledged master of writing for voice and theatre, while finding much, perhaps most, of it simultaneously unfamiliar and delicious. Massenet is the composer to whom this recording is dedicated; and the absence of any music from Manon, Werther, Thaïs and perhaps one or two other pieces (Don Quixotte, Cendrillon) means that many reasonably wide range listeners may not know a single one of its 19 songs and arias.
Rosamund Illing's characterful, bright-toned voice works in passionately detailed alliance with Richard Bonynge as conductor ... provide much the same kind of music for amorous daydreams and a simulation of St Theresa in prayer.
Illing's musical and dramatic intelligence, and her aptness in phrasing and accentuation, are major assets. Her vibrato, not over-intrusive, is part of her expressiveness. Bonynge has obviously been the guiding hand in choosing the operas and finding the performance material.
The recorded sound is full of life ... The documentation is scrupulous and helpful, with parallel texts, informative footnotes by the conductor and an entertainingly combative introduction by Rodney Milnes on the subject of Massenet's detractors.
Vandamme's production of this disc follows her organisation's excellent video documentary on Massenet's life and music.