The young ballet dancers of the L’Ecole de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris move elegantly and quickly through the rehearsal rooms of the house. The slight tension that spreads among the young girls, the oldest of whom is just 17 years of age, pervades the atmosphere – an atmosphere made, as it were, for the painter Edgar Degas. On the programme this evening is Coppélia, or the girl with the enamel eyes by Léo Delibes. The excitement among the girls is great because today they will be performing in the (reproduced) scenery and costumes which at the premiere on 25 May 1870 had delighted Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress. The first choreography of the work was undertaken by Arthur Saint-Léon (1821-1870), a violin and dance virtuoso famous at that time. He died of a heart attack at the age of 49, only a few months after the premiere. Over the years many arrangements and choreographies have been made of the piece. The version on this DVD is by Pierre Lacotte, the great ballet expert who has received many honours, and Claude Bessy, the long standing director of the ballet school at the Paris opera.
This production resuscitates Gounod s original composition, largely forgotten. A triumph for Minkowski, conducting at the Opera national de Paris, it attracted more than 1 million viewers when broadcast on TV! No competition on DVD or Bluray At last, Mireille one of the most original works of the 19th century has found its rightful place at the Palais Garnier. In 1854, a young Provençal poet, Fredéric Mistral, founded a literary association with a few other people, the aim of which was to uphold and illustrate its language and culture. They called this school Félibrige, a word of mysterious origin - a blend of joy, books and freedom. In 1859, he took things one step further and gave Félibrige its battle flag and masterpiece, Miréio, a vast epic love poem. As it happened, Gounod, whose Faust was created that year, read Mireille shortly after publication and was full of enthusiasm and went to Saint-Rémy de Provence to seek out this passionate music. Due to its singularity and density, the work has had a difficult career and was revised and altered several times. In 1939, Guy Ferrant and Henri Busser, disciples of Gounod, restored the original and Mireille was finally restored from the fine midsummer's morning and its dancing to the gripping scene in the desert-like Crau region.
Like music lovers the world over, John Nelson believes Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor is a pinnacle of Western music. For years, he has cherished the dream of performing this masterwork in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris whose renown has grown constantly since he began conducting with them eight years ago. In addition to John Nelson and his Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, the Mass in B minor brings together the Maîtrise de Notre-Dame choir conducted by Nicole Corti as well as internationally recognized soloists Ruth Ziesak (soprano), Joyce DiDonato (mezzo), Daniel Taylor (alto), Paul Agnew (tenor) and Dietrich Henschel (baritone).
Hard on the heels of a triumphant Lohengrin, Decca follows up with an equally astonishing debut performance from Jonas Kaufmann: Goethe’s love-lorn hero Werther, in Massenet’s romantic opera. His premiere appearance in the role, in Paris in January 2010, took the French operatic world by storm, his performance being hailed by Le Monde: “Werther is portrayed by the tenor of the moment, the German Jonas Kaufmann. He brings to the part a sublime timbre (warm, at times “baritonal” and musky), exceptional musicality, a very wide palette of tonal shadings and immaculate diction. Add to that his histrionic gifts and matinée-idol appeal and you’ve got a cocktail of qualities that rarely all come together at the opera.”