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More adventurous than the average bear

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not so much a curate's egg

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein


"This disc is not so much a curate's egg as an archdeacon's: the parts that are good are simply irresistible, the rest quite the opposite. Petibon is known in this country mostly for her fine performances in Baroque opera, but here she tackles the mainstream French repertoire. Her soprano is traditionally French in timbre - bright, lsightly edgy - and not large. The microphone frequently catches her breathing, and perhaps fuller tone is ideally needed for a number like Juliette's waltz song. She is especially successful with Messager. The little aria from Fortunio is a gem, and she sings it most sensitively, and then catches just the right touch of brazenness for a saucy number from L Amour masque about the advantages of having two lovers rather than just one. The Dome duet (with Deshayes, who also joins her in the Hoffman Barcarolle) and the Bell Song from Lakmé go very nicely. Both here and elsewhere she, together with Abel and the excellent Lyon chorus and orchestra, pay proper attention to expression and dynamic shading. This disc has not just been thrown together.

Manon should suit her well, but Abel's unconscionably slow tempo for 'Adieu, notre petite table' (his only lapse, far slower than Massenet's crotchet=63) makes the number and the character sound lugubrious, which neither are. Maybe his speed for the Gavotte is a touch leisurely, too, but Petibon sings it with appropriate panache.

Then the problems start. As the disc's zany cover warns us, Petibon sees herself as a great comic. After a charming account of the Romance from L'Etoile, she wildly overdoes the sneezing noises in Lazouli's 'Enfin je me sens mieux', but this is nothing compared to an account of Olympia's aria full of miaowing noises, squeals of laughter and a defiantly uncanonical cadenza in the middle with references to the Queen of Night. She sings the 'Couplets de Lady Eversharp' from Hahn's Brummel in a 'funny' voice and out of tune: the result is about as funny as an open grave. The comic number by Aboulker that ends the disc long outstays its welcome.

I repeat, there are lovely things here; but tread with caution


--- Review of Patricia Petibon's French Touch, Opera, Volume 55, Issues 1-6 (2004)
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