MAGDALENA KOZENA French Arias Minkowski

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MAGDALENA KOZENA
French Arias

Werke von / Works by
Berlioz · Gounod · Offenbach
Thomas · Massenet a.o.
Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Marc Minkowski
Int. Release 01 Sep. 2003
1 CD / Download
CD DDD 0289 474 2142 9 GH


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Daniel François Esprit Auber (1782 - 1871)
Le Domino noir

Act 3

Magdalena Kozená, Jean-Christophe Keck, Chorus Of Les Musiciens Du Louvre, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski

Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893)
Cinq Mars

Magdalena Kozená, Jean-Christophe Keck, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski

Roméo et Juliette

Act 3

Jules Massenet (1842 - 1912)
Cléopatre

Magdalena Kozená, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901)
Don Carlos

Act 2

Magdalena Kozená, Chorus Of Les Musiciens Du Louvre, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Marina Lodygensky, Magdalena Kozená, Chorus Of Les Musiciens Du Louvre, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869)
La Damnation de Faust, Op.24

Part 3

Magdalena Kozená, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski

Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)
L'heure espagnole, Comédie en un acte

Magdalena Kozená, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Jules Massenet (1842 - 1912)
Don Quichotte

Poème de Henri Cain, d'après Le Lorrain

Act 4

Magdalena Kozená, Christophe Grapperon, Jean Zvellereiter, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Ambroise Charles Louis Thomas (1811 - 1896)
Mignon

Act 1

Magdalena Kozená, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

François-Adrien Boiëldieu (1775 - 1834)
La Dame blanche

Magdalena Kozená, Chorus Of Les Musiciens Du Louvre, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893)
Sapho - opera in 3 Acts

Act 3

Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880)
Les Contes d'Hoffmann

Act 2

Jules Massenet (1842 - 1912)
Cendrillon - opera in 4 acts

Lib. Cain after Perrault

Act 1

Magdalena Kozená, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski, Jean-Christophe Keck

Georges Bizet (1838 - 1875)
Carmen

Act 2

Edwige Parat, Claire Delgado-Boge, Magdalena Kozená, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Marc Minkowski

총 재생시간 1:16:50

One senses a steely determination that, allied to Kozená's questing musical imagination, will surely carve out a unique career path for her. If this really is the dawning of the age of the mezzo, Kozená looks set to be one of its jewels.

... with her gift for narrative, Kozená easily confronts the task of finding differing dramatic colours for each successive character -- a demanding feat, given the playing length of her programme and the number of chosen items that are dream rather than action pieces. And the French language has been most assiduously worked on. Her singing is completely supported by Minkowski's carefully scaled, historically aware accompaniments; the collaboration of chorus and orchestra is alert and highly motivated, an especial (and not so common) pleasure in a solo recital disc. ... Warmly recommended, especially if you have previously been a little wary of the byways of French Romantic opera.

Schöner kann man für französische Oper kaum werben.

Magdalena Kozená is a remarkable singer. Her voice is a somewhat light mezzo with many colors, and she can shade it to a whisper or impress with a fortissimo high B-flat. Her range is absolutely even from top to bottom and she never switches gears; similarly she refuses to push the voice at either end ... This entire recital -- all 78 minutes of it -- is equally impressive and thought through ... Kozená is in total control and always both interesting and lovely ... DG's production is grand: not only are the sonics remarkably clean and clear, with ideal balances between Kozená and Minkowski's wonderful Mahler Chamber Orchestra, but the producers have left a couple of seconds between tracks so we can prepare for another character. This is a brilliant disc.

The program is a winner, including a chestnut or two for good measure, but consisting in the main of fare that is as arcane as it is delightful. In this context, Ms. Kozená's light, spicy tone feels sophisticated, quintessentially French.

There's exquisite singing, the most silvery of legatos, in 'Nuit resplendissante' from Gounod's "Cinq mars" and both she and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra relish Massenet's orientalism in 'J'ai versé la poison' from "Cléopâtre" -- Kozená's octave drop into the chest on the word 'versé' is quite thrilling. This is exactly what the French repertoire has been pining for.

The choice of arias pushes her gloriously supple mezzo soprano to the upper areas of the voice type but she reveals a real feeling for this repertoire . . . The disc has been very skilfully assembled with a good showing of rare French arias alongside the tried and trusted favourites of that delicate and tricky oeuvre . . . This is a fascinating disc from one of the most promising voices today.

It's a lovely lyric mezzo-soprano, reaching from a firm chest voice . . . solid yet not hooty, up to a shining top.

There's is as much frappé as tartare in the repertoire, but that's French music for you, and Kozená leaves no doubt that she knows how to handle both. In this she is ideally partnered by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Marc Minkowski . . .

Extraordinarily gifted . . . Kozená's voice, in a single note soaring from treacle-textured mezzo to effervescent soprano, surely stamps her as a Violetta, Mimi, Cio-Cio San and Desdemona of the future.

. . . there's a freshness about Kozená's artistry that makes something telling of every item . . .

A classy line-up of some of the finest of a younger generation of singers . . . But it was Magdalena Kozená's disc of French arias that captured the jurors' hearts here.

Das französische Album spiegelt in besonderer Weise Kozenás Vielseitigkeit wider.

Sie machte eine der schönsten Sängerkarrieren der letzten Jahre, sie singt ebenso hinreißend Barockoper wie Massenet-Arien oder Britten-Lieder . . .

Dabei liebt die Oper immer schon die slawischen Stimmen. Weil sie das gewisse Glitzern haben. Eine davon ist Magdalena Kozená, die gerade ein funkelndes Soloalbum mit französischen Opernraritäten vorgelegt hat... Solche leidenschaftlichen Klänge, umrankt von exakt geflochtenen Verziergungsgirlanden, sonor in der Tiefe, freischwebend in der Höhe -- das hatte man lange nicht gehört. Sie machten Anna Netrebko zum Star. Wie bei der erdbeerblonden Magdalena Kozená, die so betörend wie zickig sein kann, frecher Bubi und weibchenhaft, ganz wie gewünscht. Ein individuelles Timbre, schnell überspringende Persönlichkeit, eine gute Darstellerin, klug und fleißig und eine unverwechselbar nationale Komponente, die global Punkte macht...

Eine Stimme auf dem Höhepunkt ihres Könnens.

...die Einspielung von "French Arias" ist mehr als ein richtungsweisendes Versprechen - der tschechischen Mezzosopranistin mit Wahlheimat Paris ist eine musikalische Kostbarkeit gelungen, die beim Hörer beglückende Neugierde weckt... Jede erklingt in einer spezifischen, innigen und farbenreichen Schattierung... Was die so unterschiedlichen Arien vereint, ist die beseelte Technik der Sängerin, ein gesundes Fundament, auf das sie die Gefühlspalette zwischen Freude, Frömmigkeit, Melancholie und Temperament aufbauen kann. Mit Koloraturen, Triller und Verzierungen jongliert sie fast selbstverständlich schlicht; hörbare Registerwechsel sind ihr fremd. Die Klassifizierung in Sopran- oder Mezzosopran-Partien wird in ihren Interpretationen irrelevant, denn die Kombination aus angenehm "unhektisch" flexibler Stimmführung, den perlenden Höhen und warmem, satt slawisch tiefem Timbre ist geeignet gleichermaßen für eine Carmen wie für die Angèle aus Aubers "Le Domino noir".

. . . alles bewegt sich, auch idiomatisch, auf solcher Höhe der Gesangskunst, dass jede Dublette der genannten Sängerinnen einen Mehrwert bedeutet. Und Magdalena Kozená ist auf ihr fremdem Terrain erstaunlich weit gekommen.

Ihre technische Versiertheit durch die Musik der Jahrhunderte ist bewundernswürdig, mehr noch ihr individuelles, funkelndes Timbre, die schnell überspringende Persönlichkeit... Es macht vor allem sehr viel Spaß. Das definitive Vokal-Album des Jahres.

Magdalena Kozená bezaubert mit französischen Arien des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts . . . Nun legt sie eine CD mit französischen Arien des 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhunderts vor, sehr aufmerksam und einfühlsam begleitet vom Mahler Chamber Orchestra unter Marc Minkowski . . . Vor allem schmiegt sich das luftige, nie ins Vibrato-Süffige abgleitende Spiel des Orchesters wunderbar zum leichten Mezzo der Sängerin. Die Arien selbst . . . wären allein schon eine musikalische Entdeckungsreise wert . . . Möglicherweise erleben wir auf dieser CD einen viel allgemeineren Aufbruch in Neuland, das unter den Augen eines von der historischen Praxis der Barockmusik herkommenden Dirigenten ganz andere Konturen anzunehmen verspricht, als wir es gewohnt sind. Wenige haben es jedenfalls bisher geschafft, im Lied der Eboli aus dem 1. Akt von Verdis "Don Carlos" den vom Komponisten angesprochenen spanischen Esprit so zu seinem Recht kommen zu lassen wie Marc Minkowski.

. . . nicht das attraktive Aussehen, sondern diese nuancenreiche, weiche Stimme ist es doch, derentwegen ich beim Hören ihrer neuen CD "French Arias" (DG 474 2142) schon beim Frühstück dahinschmelze. Selten aufgenommene Arien aus dem französischen Opernrepertoire, denen sie ihren lyrisch-romantischen Stempel aufdrückt.

Kozená schlägt Larmore nach Längen im französischen Fach... Vergleichsweise verdient die von Magdalena Kozená und dem Dirigenten Marc Minkowski zusammengestellte Anthologie eine Hymne... So gelingt es Kozená, das "Chanson du voile" der Eboli und Carmens "Chanson bohème" mit Eleganz und Verve zu singen, ohne beim Versuch der Dramatisierung zu forcieren. Imponierender als die glänzenden vokalen Stunts -- etwa die Arie der Angèle aus Aubers "Le Domino noir", der heftige Klagegesang der Concepcion aus de Fallas "L'Heure espagnole" -- sind einige in wunderbar-zarten Farben changierende Herzensergießungen: Marguerites Lied vom König in Thule aus "La Damnation de Faust" von Berlioz, Mignons "Connais-tu", Saphos "O ma lyre immortelle", die Meditation der Dulcinée aus Massenets "Don Quichotte" und das geradezu magische Solo von Massenets "Cendrillon". Eine Trouvaille ist das Lied des Nicklausse aus dem "Olympia"-Akt von "Les Contes d'Hoffmann"... In Minkowski und dem Mahler Chamber Orchestra mit seinen exzellenten Holzbläsern hat Magdalena Kozená ideale Partner.

Das Frappierende: Magdalena Kozená versteht es, mit ihrer leicht geführten, rhetorisch sorgsam operierenden, die Trennung von Sopran- und Altbereich negierenden Stimme ganz unterschiedliche Charaktere mit individueller Prägnanz zu erfassen. Gertenschlanke Chansons wie Nicklausses "O rêve de joie" (eigens orchestrierte Offenbach-Novität) sind besondere Markenzeichen für Kozenás vokalphysische Disposition. Last but not least begeistert der prickelnde Klang des Mahler Chamber Orchestra unter Minkowskis moussierender Stabführung.

... elle a conservé une belle technique et une facilité de déchiffrage impressionnante. Plus encore une évidence de l'articulation, un amour de la ligne sculpturale, qui sont devenus les premières vertus de son chant...

... le timbre est chaleureux, l'émission égale et homogène, l'aigu franc et le grave charnu, sans parler de cette musicalité qui, dans l'opéra comme dans l'oratorio ou la mélodie, fait de la mezzo tchèque l'une des meilleures chanteuses de notre époque.

Triomphant un peu partout en Idamante et en Chérubin, Kozená trouve le ton juste pour camper d'autres grands garçons, auquels elle prête spontanément un charme trouble et juvénile: on ne peut rêver Stephano ("Roméo et Juliette") plus ferme et décidé, Nicklausse ("Les Contes d'Hoffmann") de plus noble tenue... Marc Minkowski est le plus attentif des accompagnateurs, sertissant, avec son sens du théâtre et sa vivacité habituels, des climats dramatiques d'une étonnante versatilité.

Magdalena Kozená séduit par sa voix de velours, sa diction travaillée et son talent dramatique. En quelques notes, elle brosse le portrait de son personnage et lui donne chair et sentiments. Radieuse Marie, voluptueuse Cléopâtre, féline Dulcinée, melancolique Mignon ou tragique Sapho, elle vit chacun de ses rôles sans jamais en forcer le caractère... Il faut saluer le soutien orchestral de Marc Minkowski qui sait, comme à l'accoustumée, installer le chant dans un evironnement musical adéquat.

. . . voici Magdalena Kozená. Avec quel art pour elle, quel bonheur pour nous! Rompue à Mozart et aux rôles de jeune garçon (Idamante dans «Idoménée», Cherubin dans «Les Noces de Figaro»), la blonde Tchèque révèle ici tout son savoir-faire. Tant dans la composition du programme . . . que dans celle des personnages. La voix est belle, le timbre sensuel et délicat, l'émission naturelle et souple, la diction parfaite.

. . . idéale pour l'île, car elle parcourt toute l'étendue des affects, de la grâce légère qui émeut les jours de spleen à la douleur infinie où l'on s'immerge plus volontiers dans les moments d'euphorie . . . ce disque ne trahira pas mon attente. J'ai dû souvent aussi en donner la référence à ceux qui découvraient ce chant subtil et si présent.

Minkowski logra un sonido muy diáfano de la orquesta camerística Mahler ... Kozena ilumina con un frasco inteligente arias como «Nuit resplendissante» del Cinq Mars, o «J'ai versé le poison» de la Cléopátre, de Massenet ... su voz de centro cálido, grave amplio y nunca «poitriné», además de un luminoso agudo, tanto en forte como cuando apiana, destaca ... en arias como la bellísima «Connais tu le pays» de la Mignon, de Thomas, donde plasma con suma naturalidad el clima evocador de la aria, o bien «Ô ma lyre immortelle» de Sapho, de Gounod, en la que muestra un frasco muy sentido en el lamento por el abandono que sufre la poetisa. ... Kozena ... canta con delicadeza y humor en su cabaletta [«Ô rêve de joie ... Voyez la sous son éventail»]. ... El baño lírico francés de Magdalena Kozena sienta bien a su voz y permite descubrir piezas del todo infrecuentes que cobran nueva vida gracias al gran talento de la mezzo checa.

Minkowski realiza una excelente labor, tratando de dar a cada pieza su carácter sonoro y dramático . . . Kozená se muestra como una cantante enormemente musical, que parece disponer de una buena técnica que le permite sortear con fortuna los pasajes de agilidad.

Un recital imprescindible en la discoteca de cualquier aficionado. ...
El acompañamiento de Marc Minkowski al frente de la Mahler Chamber Orchestra posee gran delicateza y muestra un fraseo inigualable. Añadamos que la grabación tiene una presencia y especialidad impecable y ya estará todo dicho.

El bello color de Kozená y una dulzura natural le permiten estar espléndida en las arias más románticas del disco.

Tophits heeft zij bewust weggelaten, en gekozen voor aria's van Auber, Boieldieu, Massenet en anderen, die je zelden hoort. Ze zijn allemaal wel heel leuk of zelfs meer. Kozena zingt ze met verve en ze wordt meer dan vitaal begeleid door het Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
    Recording French Opera Arias

Hugh Canning talks to Magdalena Kožená and Marc Minkowski
The Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená has, in a short period of time, become a leading light among the younger generation of concert and opera singers. She has established a formidable reputation as a Baroque and Classical specialist, having recorded a Bach aria recital for Archiv and taking part in Marc Minkowski's complete recordings of Gluck's Armide, Rameau's Dardanus, and a couple of Handel discs: Roman liturgical music, including the popular Dixit Dominus, and a selection of rarely recorded Italian cantatas. Although her first release on the Yellow Label was an album of songs by composers from her native country - Dvorák, Janácek, and Martinù - her first opera recital, coupling Mozart and Gluck with their contemporary and Kožená's compatriot Josef Myslivecek, may have reinforced the specialist image, so it was clearly time for a new departure. When I met her in London recently, I asked her why French opera?

"Well, the record company wanted something a bit more modern than the Baroque and Classical repertoire I'd already been doing, and 19th-century Italian opera is not really for me. I would love to do another Czech record, but most of the operas need big Slavonic, almost Wagnerian soprano voices, so unfortunately there is nothing for me there either. So a French disc seemed like a good idea and, in a way, this is a step in the direction of French roles. I don't just want to be typecast as only a Baroque singer. I want to show people that I can do other things. Maybe it's hard to imagine if you have only heard me in Handel or a Liederabend."

At the beginning of her career at the opera house in Brno, Kožená's first roles were Dorabella in Mozart's Così fan tutte and Isabella in Rossini's L'italiana in Algeri - a part she now thinks is too low for a voice which is edging towards the soprano repertoire - and there was little opportunity for her to sing French music. That changed when she met Minkowski, who, apart from his vast knowledge of the Baroque repertoire, has a deep affection for French opera and operetta: in the theatre he has already conducted works as various as Boïeldieu's La Dame blanche, Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers, and Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande (he chose Kožená as the heroine of both his stage production in Leipzig and a concert performance at the Opéra Comique for the opera's 100th anniversary in 2002).

"In the Czech Republic we didn't have a tradition of French music, but rather German.
I tried a few mélodies, but my French pronunciation at that time was terrible. I really had no idea - I was a student after all - so this was something I discovered when I started working with Marc. When we recorded Armide, I was invited to participate quite late.
I had prepared my aria and thought my French was fine, but when I sang it, he said: 'Well, she sings great, but I don't understand a word of it!' I was so disappointed because I thought I'd worked really hard on my French." Minkowski has become her mentor in matters of Gallic style (though since meeting him, she has married a Frenchman, the baritone Vincent Le Texier, and now lives permanently in France) so it's not surprising that the conductor has influenced the content of Magdalena's French disc.

"The oldest music," she says, "is an aria from La Dame blanche and the most modern is Ravel, an extract from L'Heure espagnole [it would be hard to imagine a greater contrast in styles]. I've tried to do a lot of unknown pieces - some are better known than others, of course - and most of the disc will be taken up with rarities. There's an aria from Auber's Le Domino noir. I also found this lovely number from Gounod's Cinq Mars, but then discovered it had already been recorded by Vesselina Kasarova; we decided to record it anyway. There's also an aria from Massenet's Don Quichotte - in fact, several of the extracts have a Spanish theme: most obviously L'Heure espagnole and the 'Chanson bohème' ('Gypsy Song') from Carmen, which is rarely recorded as a recital item. There's an aria from Massenet's Cendrillon and the relatively well-known 'Ô ma lyre immortelle' from Gounod's Sapho, the 'Chanson gothique' from La Damnation de Faust, and 'Connais-tu le pays' from Ambroise Thomas's Mignon.

We also recorded the 'Veil Song' from Verdi's Don Carlos - the original French version - which may be a bit of a surprise to many people." Magdalena says that the inclusion of Eboli's aria was Marc's idea rather than her own. For obvious reasons, she had her doubts: "First of all because Verdi is not a French composer, and of course everyone will ask me why I recorded one of Eboli's arias when I don't sing the role on stage. But, you know, recording and the stage are very different things, and this aria is very much like a folksong, light with a lot of coloratura, so I think it fits my voice well. Because I have recorded it doesn't mean that I think I can do such a crazy thing on stage."

For the conductor, too, this aria is clearly the most "controversial" choice, but he insists that it's a good one. "The 'Chanson du voile' from Don Carlos - which is something that Magdalena didn't believe she could do - is true French opera, and I thought to hear it with such a transparent voice would be a dream for me. There is a lost tradition in Franceof lyric voices singing Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner, which was frequent in the 1940s but started to disappear in the 1950s. Magdalena's is a light lyric voice which has become larger and richer with the years I've been working with her."

If it's unlikely that Kožená would ever sing Eboli on stage - even in the French Don Carlos - one French role she longs to do is Massenet's Cendrillon (Cinderella), whose big solo is included on the new album. "I think the Châtelet Theatre is quite interested in doing this opera, though nothing is yet decided." She says she - and Minkowski - would love to record the complete opera. The only previous recording has a tenor in the soprano travesty role of Prince Charming, which Kožená thinks would be a perfect role for Anne Sofie von Otter. It's a mouth-watering thought.

The French album is a tribute to Magdalena's versatility, though her conductor points out that she is not the first singer to tackle such apparently "incompatible" roles as Carmen and Mélisande. He mentions Victoria de Los Angeles, who sang both, plus several other French roles which defy the categories of mezzo or soprano.

"The problem," says Minkowski, "is to find the right orchestra, the right conductor, the right hall. It can be very dangerous, but when you hear Magdalena sing the 'Chanson des sistres' ['Gypsy Song' from Carmen], or when you hear her in the aria from Le Domino noir, you hear a soprano with dazzling virtuosity. When we rehearsed I almost fell off my chair!"

For Kožená, the question of mezzo or soprano is not entirely relevant to a lot of the music she sings here, music that was written when the distinction between the two voice categories was not so clear-cut as it is thought to be today. "Both sopranos and mezzos have done nearly all the repertoire I sing on the disc, and I must say my Carmen doesn't sound very like a mezzo! A lot of this music is written for voices which are flexible and can do fast notes." Stéphano in Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and Nicklausse in Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann are usually thought of as mezzo roles today, but they have both been sung by sopranos. One of the items on the disc is in fact a world première, a song for Nicklausse in the "Olympia" act of Hoffmann, which according to Minkowski exists only in sketches. It has been orchestrated by Jean-Christophe Keck.

It was presumably with Magdalena Kožená's versatility in mind that Minkowski chose her to sing the traditionally soprano role of Cleopatra in his concert performances and recording of Handel's Giulio Cesare, an opera in which she had previously sung the role of Sesto with him for Netherlands Opera.

"I wasn't sure I could do it, but then I looked at the part - with Baroque instruments and at Baroque pitch, which is a bit lower. So, I thought, yes, maybe we could do something a bit different with the part. She has a lot of very emotional music, so maybe a darker, more mezzo-ish timbre can work [the American mezzo Tatiana Troyanos also sang the role]. I saw Marc conducting Giulio Cesare at the Paris Opéra, and the Cleopatra there had almost a soubrette voice which was very nice, but for the deeper arias such as 'Se pietà' and 'Piangerò', I think you need a richer colour. When I did it with him in concert, a lot of critics said that a mezzo voice makes the more dramatic arias sound more credible."

Minkowski agrees: "That's the fascinating thing about Magdalena. When we announced her as Cleopatra, everyone was sceptical at first, but they all fell in love with her."

    Magdalena Kožená - A Chronology

    Marc Minkowski

Born in Paris in 1962 and trained as a bassoonist, MARC MINKOWSKI was still very young when he began conducting, subsequently studying with Charles Bruck at the Pierre Monteux School in Hancock, Maine. In 1982 he founded Les Musiciens du Louvre in Paris (since 1996 the ensemble has been based in Grenoble) and has committed himself to the exploration of the 17th and 18th centuries - the French masters, particularly Lully and Rameau (Platée at the Paris Opéra [Palais Garnier]), but also Handel, Gluck (Armide, Alceste, Iphigénie en Tauride, and Orphée), and Monteverdi (L'incoronazione di Poppea at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1999). But he does not confine his activities to the Baroque period. As early as 1996 he made his début at the Paris Opéra (Bastille) with Mozart's Idomeneo, and the following year conducted Wagner's Flying Dutchman in a tour of the Netherlands, made his Salzburg Festival début in Mozart's Entführung, and first essayed Offenbach with Orphée aux Enfers at the Opéra National de Lyon. As music director of De Vlaamse Opera in 1998 and 1999, he further expanded his lyric repertoire to include Weber's Oberon and Massenet's Cendrillon.

In 2000, he created a sensation at the Berlin Staatsoper conducting the new critical edition of Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable and also made his débuts with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 2001, he returned to Aix-en-Provence with Le nozze di Figaro and to Salzburg with Die Fledermaus, and he conducted Handel's Giulio Cesare at the Netherlands Opera. In 2002, he rejoined the Mahler Chamber Orchestra for Pelléas et Mélisande, which, on the occasion of the opera's centenary, he conducted at Ferrara and later at the venue of its première, the Opéra Comique in Paris. During the 2002/03 season his engagements include Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique at the Cité de la Musique in Paris with the combined Musiciens du Louvre and Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Giulio Cesare in Vienna, a "Rameau Gala" at the Théâtre du Châtelet in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Musiciens du Louvre, and his Berlin Philharmonic début.
Marc Minkowski has recorded since 1994 for Deutsche Grammophon. His discography, with Les Musiciens du Louvre, includes Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, Anacréon, Le Berger fidèle, and Dardanus; La resurrezione, Ariodante, Hercules, Giulio Cesare, Messiah, motets and cantatas by Handel; three French cantatas; the Sonates en symphonie op. 3 of Mondonville; Charpentier's Te Deum and Messe de minuit; Lully's Acis et Galatée; Gluck's Armide and Iphigénie en Tauride, as well as arias and scenes from Offenbach with Anne Sofie von Otter. He has also recorded Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Les Musiciens du Louvre.

Magdalena Kozená Sings French Opera Arias

The triumph of French musical theatre in the 19th century was the magnificent spectacle we call “grand opera", and all the world flocked to the Paris Opéra to see and hear it. There the emphasis was on great singing and magnificent staging and costumes. Meanwhile the Opéra-Comique, offering lighter fare, flourished alongside its bigger sister, and a third institution, the Théâtre-Lyrique, also gave some important premières, including Gounod's Faust. By 1900, when Massenet was its uncrowned king and Debussy and Ravel were about to inject some utterly new kinds of music drama, French opera had reached a peak. Its richness is amply displayed by this enticing collection of arias, drawn from 14 works composed between 1825 and 1912.

A standard device of opéra-comique in the Romantic period was the “ballade", usually in two or more “couplets" with choral refrain, which typically relate some murky family history. In this fine example from Boieldieu's highly successful La Dame blanche, first performed in 1825, Jenny, wife of the tenant farmer Dickson, tells about the ghostly White Lady who presides over the Scottish castle of Avenel. George, an English officer, dismisses her three spooky verses as just a fairytale.

Auber succeeded Boieldieu as the leading master of the form. First heard in 1837, his opera Le Domino noir was one of many French examples to exploit a Spanish setting. “Flamme vengeresse", inspired by the rhythm of the bolero, is the work's most exciting and popular aria, with a fine display of coloratura. In three identical verses the heroine Angèle, a lady of the royal convent, tells of a narrow escape, and in the final brilliant waltz she begs the Almighty to free her from the pangs of a forbidden love.

Berlioz conceived La Damnation de Faust (1846) as a “dramatic legend" for concert performance, yet it has many operatic features and is often staged. At the beginning of Part III, Mephistopheles leads Faust to the chamber of Marguerite (Gretchen), where she is discovered singing the “Ballad of the King of Thulé". Supported by a solo viola, there are three verses in a plaintive “Gothic" style, concluding with a long melancholy sigh.
Thomas's Mignon (1866), like La Damnation de Faust, was based on Goethe, this time his Wilhelm Meister. The songs in the novel had long been favourites for lieder composers. “Connais-tu le pays" (“Kennst du das Land") had already been set countless times, yet Thomas achieved a remarkably touching effect with his characterization of the gentle Mignon. In this two-verse romance she recalls her childhood in a foreign land before she was kidnapped by gypsies. Mignon's immense success was in no small part due to the performance of Galli-Marié - later to be the first Carmen - in the name part.

Verdi's Don Carlos opened at the Opéra the following year, after a protracted rehearsal period that tested Verdi's patience to the limit. In this scene from Act II, the princess Eboli and her ladies are amusing themselves outside the monastery gates. The chorus and the page Tybalt (soprano) delight in their surroundings, supported by Verdi's magical orchestration. Eboli then sings an entertainingly exotic song about the Moorish king Achmet who mistakenly woos his own wife.

The next three arias are by Gounod, the master of the French lyric style. His first opera, Sapho, was composed for the great mezzo Pauline Viardot in 1851, but despite her participation and her great aria “O ma lyre immortelle", which was much praised, it was not a success. The story tells of passion and betrayal in ancient Greece. At the end the poetess Sappho flings herself from a high cliff into the waves below, whose dull murmur is graphically portrayed in the second verse of her aria.

Faust was an immense success in 1859, and so also was Roméo et Juliette, premiered at the Théâtre-Lyrique in 1867. The aria here is sung by Stéphano, Romeo's page: “Que fais-tu, blanche tourterelle", a two-verse song about a turtle dove in a nest of vultures.
Cinq-Mars, based on a famous novel by Alfred de Vigny, was given a lavish production at the Opéra-Comique in 1877 but was not a critical success. The cantilène “Nuit resplendissante" is sung by the Princess Marie de Gonzague who is to be married to the King of Poland although she is secretly in love with the Marquis de Cinq-Mars. Eagerly anticipating a meeting with her lover, she invokes the splendour of the night in her aria, over beautifully evocative orchestration.

Offenbach died in 1880 before completing his masterpiece, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, and it was put together piecemeal for performance at the Opéra-Comique after his death. One aria that was replaced was Nicklausse's “Voyez-la sous son éventail" in the “Olympia" act, so its two brief verses are unfamiliar even to most of Hoffmann's admirers.
For exotic evocations of Spain no opera can rival Bizet's Carmen, staged at the Opéra-Comique in 1875 amid cries of alarm at its violent passions. “Les tringles des sistres tintaient", the “Chanson bohème" that opens the second act, is more gypsy music than Spanish. Its three verses draw a lilting refrain from Carmen's gypsy companions Frasquita and Mercedes, and it ends in a wild dance for all the company.

Massenet was a master of all genres and a thorough professional, who knew his métier better than any other French stage composer of his time. Cléopâtre was the last of his 24 operas, finished shortly before his death in 1912 and first staged in Monte Carlo in 1914. Cleopatra offers to reward with a kiss any slave who will drink a poisoned cup, despite Mark Antony's disapproval. The prose libretto by Louis Payen inspired Massenet here to a recitative-like vocal manner, with exotic colours in the orchestral writing.

In Cendrillon, first staged at the Opéra-Comique in 1899, Massenet brought the Cinderella story to life in an 18th-century setting. Cinderella envies her sisters' exciting lives and tries to convince herself to be the cricket on the hearth rather than the butterfly that flits away. But as night draws on, the music lulls her to sleep and a delicate, thinly scored epilogue closes the scene.

Don Quichotte is Massenet's comic masterpiece, composed for Chaliapin and first performed in 1910 in Monte Carlo. The composer was actually less impressed by the great Russian bass than by the charms of Lucy Arbell, the young mezzo who sang Dulcinée. At the opening of Act IV the character is surrounded by her admirers to whom she sings two songs in succession, first a mournful melody, “Lorsque le temps d'amour", which imagines a life without love, and then a much brisker piece in the most brilliant Spanish mode, “Ne pensons qu'au plaisir d'aimer", which proclaims the irresistible delights of voluptuous pleasure.
Of all the colourful pictures of Spain in French opera, Ravel's one-act L'Heure espagnole is perhaps the most expertly drawn. In this scene Concepcion, whose husband the clockmaker is out winding the city clocks, has three admirers on her hands: one hidden in a clock nearby and another hauling a clock upstairs in which the third is encased. Her aria is a comic reflection on this curious situation as well as a parody of the flourishes and gestures of grand opera.

Hugh Macdonald

1973 Born in the Czech city of Brno
1987 - 1991Vocal and piano studies at Brno Conservatory with Neva Megová and Jirí Peša
1991 - 1995 Student of Eva Blahová at Bratislava Drama College
1995 Prizewinner at the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg
Extensive tours of Japan and the USA
1996 Dorabella (Così fan tutte/Mozart) at the Janácek Theatre in Brno
1996 / 1997 Annio (La clemenza di Tito/Mozart) at the Vienna Volksoper
CD: J. S. Bach: Arias/Musica Florea, Štryncl (DG/Archiv 457 367-2)
1997Isabella (L'italiana in Algeri/Rossini) at the Janácek Theatre in Brno
1998 Hermia (A Midsummer Night's Dream/Britten) at the Vienna Volksoper
Paride (Paride ed Elena/Gluck) at the Drottningholm Festival
Idamantes (Idomeneo/Mozart) for Flanders Opera under Marc Minkowski
Beginning of collaboration with pianist Graham Johnson
Harmonie Award in the Czech Republic: CD of the Year (Bach: Arias)
1999 / 2000 Orphée (Orphée et Eurydice/Gluck) at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, under Sir John Eliot Gardiner, directed by Robert Wilson
Nerone (L'incoronazione di Poppea/Monteverdi) at the Vienna and Aix-en-Provence Festivals under Marc Minkowski
CDs: J. S. Bach: Whitsun Cantatas/English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner (DG/Archiv 463 584-2)
Handel: Dixit Dominus; Salve Regina etc./Les Musiciens du Louvre, Minkowski (DG/Archiv 459 627-2)
Rameau: Dardanus/Les Musiciens du Louvre, Minkowski
(DG/Archiv 463 476-2)
Love Songs: Songs by Dvorák, Janácek, Martinù/Graham Johnson
(DG 463 472-2)
2000 / 2001 Sesto (La clemenza di Tito/Mozart) at the Edinburgh Festival
Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande/Debussy) at the Leipzig Opera
Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro/Mozart) at the Aix-en-Provence and
Baden-Baden Festivals under Marc Minkowski
Echo Klassik prizewinner 2000: "Best New Artist"
Diapason d'or 2000, Record Academy Prize, Tokyo, 2001 (Dardanus)
CDs: J. S. Bach: Cantatas/English Baroque Soloists, Gardiner
(DG/Archiv 463 591-2)
Handel: Italian Cantatas/Les Musiciens du Louvre, Minkowski
(DG/Archiv 469 065-2)
2001 / 02 Sesto (Giulio Cesare/Handel) at the Netherlands Opera under Marc Minkowski
Soloist (St. Matthew Passion/Bach) with Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Players in London, Lisbon, Munich, Aldeburgh
Performances with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Marc Minkowski
in Ferrara and at the Opéra Comique, Paris, as Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande/Debussy)
At the Salzburg Festival Zerlina (Don Giovanni/Mozart) under Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mozart's C minor Mass and Thamos music, and the Fauré Requiem under Minkowski
European recital tour with pianist Malcolm Martineau in London, Paris, Antwerp, Prague, Steensgard (Denmark), at the Schubertiade Schwarzenberg (Austria), in Hamburg, and Helsinki
Gramophone Award 2001 (Love Songs)
CDs: Arias by Gluck, Mozart, Myslivecek/Prague Philharmonia, Swierczewski (DG 471 334-2)
Messiah/Les Musiciens du Louvre, Minkowski (DG/Archiv 471 341-2)
2002 / 03 Les Musiciens du Louvre 20th Anniversary Concert with Minkowski at the Châtelet in Paris
Wigmore Hall recital and tour of Japan with Malcolm Martineau
Idamantes in Peter Sellars's production of Idomeneo at Glyndebourne, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
Other summer festival appearances include Mostly Mozart in London at the Barbican, Verbier, Utrecht Festival of Early Music (Handel recital with countertenor Thierry Grégoire), Schubertiade Schwarzenberg (recital with Malcolm Martineau)
Echo Klassik Award 2002 (Gluck, Mozart, Myslivecek)
CDs: J. S. Bach: St. Matthew Passion/Gabrieli Players, McCreesh
(DG/Archiv 474 200-2)
Handel: Giulio Cesare/Les Musiciens du Louvre, Minkowski
(DG/Archiv 474 210-2)
French Opera Arias/Les Musiciens du Louvre, Minkowski
(DG 474 214-2)
2003 / 04 Performances of Idomeneo with Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker in Berlin, Lucerne, and at the Salzburg Easter Festival
London, Paris, and Lisbon concert performances, and Archiv recording of Gluck's Paride ed Elena with McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players
Cherubino at the Met and Bavarian State Opera, Dorabella at the Salzburg Easter Festival
Extensive recital tours of the USA and Europe
Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená
Magdalena Kožená