Arias by Auber, Bizet, Boieldieu, Clapisson, Delibes, Donizetti, T Dubois, Gounod, Halévy, Saint-Saëns, Ambroise Thomas et al
Cyrille Dubois (tenor); Orchestre National de Lille/Pierre Dumoussaud
Alpha Classics ALPHA924 68:46 mins
Singer and song are in splendid harmony in this latest project from the indefatigable Bru-Zane Foundation. Cyrille Dubois, a young and just arriving tenor, rescues 19th-century French operatic arias from the archives. And this is not any tenor, but an artist who aspires to recreate the style of the fabled French ténor de grâce with top notes sung from the head and not the chest.
The repertoire is often unfamiliar – Louis Clappison’s Gibby le Cornemuse or Charles Silver’s Myriane are unlikely to be rushed into production nowadays. Yet, there are old friends here – numbers from Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon, and ‘Ah, mes amis, quel jour de fête’ from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment with those daunting top Cs all sung effortlessly from the head. As 19th- century French music changed so did the style demanded from the ténor de grâce. The light silvery tone with graceful acrobatic decoration prized by Boieldieu in the 1820s and Auber 20 years later evolved into something closer to the lyric tenor by the time of Ambroise Thomas. And at the end of the century the frontier between these vocal styles was getting smudged. Dubois maps it well. Crisp diction and a graceful legato are coupled with elegantly produced tone and positively athletic decoration. And he is suitably supported by Pierre Dumoussaud and the Orchestre National de Lille. In Clapisson’s ‘Romance Adieu, toi ma pauvre Mère’ from Le code noir premiered in 1842 you hear what singing lost when the Italian tenore di forza took the lead.