Howard Smith
Music and Vision (UK)

Before placing this CD in the audio tray I was filled with admiration at the production.

The notes, illustrations, translations and tasteful packaging are exemplary in every respect. Rodney Milnes’ (Opera editor and Times contributor) authoritative seven-page introduction to Massenet is worth the price of this CD on its own. Furthermore noted lieder accompanist Graham Johnson’s appreciation-postscript is an added treasure...Such an embarrassment of riches!

All this together with Mr Bonynge’s notes, Mary Ryan’s song translations and Alessandro Servadei’s design-layout set a benchmark before I’d even heard British-born Rosamund Illing in the opening track...

So, how do these 1998 performances shape up? Qualities bespeaking the ‘zeitgeist’ that dramatist Romain Rolland (1866-1944) characterized as ‘a Slumbering Massenet in the heart of every subsequent French composer’ become evident through Ms Illing’s considered singing. Indeed she brings expressive Gallic clarity and immeasurable lyric flair to each of the nineteen tracks, many of them seldom (if ever) heard by a majority of music lovers...

For his part, Richard Bonynge is arguably the foremost living conductor of French opera...I was not at all surprised to find he brings out the inexhaustible niceties and nuances within Massenet’s divinely crafted manuscripts.