Hélène and Nuit persane

Jean Jacques-Millo
OpusHD eMagazine (France)

Opus d'or Award

Nuit Persane was premiered in 1892. Camille Saint-Saëns offered it to Edouard Colonne to conduct and he in turn offered it to the public of the Théâtre du Chatelet in Paris. The score is a suite of melodies for tenor, contralto, narrator, chorus and orchestra, based on a text by Armand Renaud "who worked for the Beaux-Arts of the city of Paris". The composer quickly establishes just the right tone, giving the work a variety of vocal colours that, even today, merits praise.

For Hélène, Saint-Saëns confined himself to one aspect of the famous story, that "of Hélène’s flight from her palace, arriving exhausted at the beach to join Paris". As the composer writes: "It is a scene of passion, resistance having been finally overcome, the ultimate flight of the two lovers after a desperate struggle. I have never been able to see Hélène simply as a woman in love. She is Destiny’s slave, sacrificed by Aphrodite to the goddess’ glory. She is a great figure whose actions don’t so much invoke scorn, but holy terror". The work was composed in 1904 and unfolds over seven scenes and four tableaux.

With an Australian orchestra at one with his interpretation, French conductor Guillaume Tourniaire gives us a little miracle of a recording, a crowning achievement. All the charm of Saint-Saëns’ music is to be found on these pages, championed with brio and passion by these inspired interpreters. This vocal and musical discovery is a meeting of artistry. In either stereo or multi-channel, this beautiful recording on double SACD will leave no one unmoved.