Hélène and Nuit persane

Peter McCallum
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

This revival of Saint-Saëns’ now-forgotten opera, Hélène – first performed in 1904 with Nellie Melba in the title role and now, released by her eponymous record label – is of genuine significance. Hélène deals with the conflict of duty and desire, specifically the moment when Helen of Troy decides to leave her worthy Menelaus in Sparta to go with Pâris, launching an epochal and titanic war. Rosamund Illing’s voice is strong and voluptuously coloured as Hélène, while Steve Davislim’s tenor as Pâris is light, lyrical and soaring... Leanne Kenneally is gloriously rich as Venus, while Zan McKendree-Wright sings Pallas with effective and premonitory Wagnerian tones.

Accompanying is Nuit Persane; Guillaume Tourniaire leads a strong orchestra and chorus with sympathetic intelligence.