Hélène and Nuit persane

Sandrine Khoudja
Le Monde de la Musique (France)

Here is a happy coupling of two rarely performed vocal works by Camille Saint-Saëns. Warmly received at its premiere at Monte Carlo in 1904, Hélène belongs to the group of the composer’s works inspired by mythology like Rouet d’Omphale, Phaëton or even La Jeunesse d’Hercule.

In the role of Hélène, Rosamund Illing has a beautiful dramatic presence … she uses an expressivity to which one cannot be indifferent. Steve Davislim is convincing as the tenor Pâris, emphasising the seductive side of his character.

Right from the start the conductor, Guillaume Tourniaire , finds the key subtleties that Hélène’s seven tableaux require. Orchestra Victoria has beautiful dynamic finesse with gleaming strings.

It was in the middle of a journey through Algeria that Saint-Saëns composed his symphonic poem Nuit persane. Its originality lies in the diverse combinations of vocal resources: a declamatory voice representing the dream, linked to those of the choir. With a mysterious essence, the score is replete with oriental colours and offers thrilling effects. The tenor Steve Davsilim shows excellent French … Here again the conductor ensures the chamber-like cohesion of the orchestra and the balance with the vocal soloists.