Gerard Condé
Opera Magazine (France)

The Australian label Melba Recordings released its first album in 2000. It has made since the last few months a spectacular entrance on the French Market. On the vocal side, after a complete Die Walküre recorded live in Adelaide, they have released two rarities recitals, conducted by no less than Richard Bonynge , one of the main artists in their catalogue. Richard Bonyngue conducted also the Hérold ballet La somnambule published this summer.

The Massenet recital recorded in 1998 by soprano Rosamund Illing, is entitled Amoureuse which is a pleonasm as all the composer’s heroines are in love. If the most famous ones, Manon, Esclarmonde and Thais, are not present, it is because Richard Bonynge’s choice has cleverly selected some rare, very rare or even unrecorded pages. Massenet’s first lyric attempt: La Grand’tante (1867) – the orchestration of which was lost in the Opera Comique fire – was reconstructed by Brian Castles-Onion from the fairly precise indications given in the composer’s piano-voice score. We discover an aria written during the same period as Poème d’Avril, where the musician, still close to Schumann, was looking for his own style and discovered it. One might just wonder if his orchestration skills were already so refined – as they are here highlighted by the production sound ...

More interesting and convincing, the three arias from Ariane - never recorded before - provide some light on this opera successfully premiered in Paris in 1906. We find here a new language, purified and timeless as in Roma and Cleopatre. However, since these are monologues rather than arias, it is difficult to appreciate their scopes outside of the drama context.

... Rosamund Illing [is a] faultless lyric soprano with an exemplary diction ... Sapho suits her in the most introverted pages ("Demain je Partirai" and the very moving final monologue). So does La Vierge de l’Extase. ... One appreciates in Marie Magdeleine ("O mes soeurs") her darker tone ...

... a recording that diverts so resolutely from the beaten tracks is really worth listening to.