Bru Zane Classical Radio broadcasts on Sunday 15 April at 9 p.m. Mireille (1864), opera in five acts by Charles Gounod (1818-1893).

Libretto by Michel Carré
First premiered on 19 March 1864 at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris

Michel Plasson conductor

Mireille Mirella Freni
Vincent Alain Vanzo
Taven Jane Rhodes
Ramon Gabriel Bacquier
Ourrias José van Dam
Vincenette Christine Barbaux
Clémence Michèle Command
Ambroise Marc Vento
Le Passeur Jean-Jacques Cubaynes
Andreloun, un berger Luc Terrieux

Gounod’s mother had had the discernment to place Gérard de Nerval’s translation of Goethe’s Faust in the luggage of the young man as he set out for Rome. Later on, Le Médecin malgré lui, his opéra-comique of 1858, responded to a concern she had expressed as soon as her son came home from the Villa Medici: that he should not restrict himself to the serious genre. We see that, in the domain of opera as in so many others, Gounod once again owed a great deal to his mother. Although it was accused of academicism by the champions of unbridled modernity, his operatic output testifies to two qualities essential in a great composer: the unity of a personal stylistic signature and the variety of a man who understood the specificities of each of his librettos. If his melodic and harmonic hallmarks are present in abundance, the way Gounod lays out his arias, ensembles and finales surprises us every time. Generous with reprises and ambitious developments in his grands opéras, he is economical and parsimonious in the demi-caractère genre (as in Cinq-Mars and Philémon et Baucis), with a fondness for introducing salon romances (Siebel’s ‘Si le bonheur’ in Faust) and orchestrated mélodies (Sapho’s ‘Ô ma lyre immortelle’ or Marie de Gonzague’s ‘Nuit resplendissante’). He wrote gratefully for all voice types, but always favoured the ‘fort ténor’ of opéra-comique (Roméo, Vincent, Faust, Cinq-Mars) and the affecting tones of the lyric soprano (Mireille, Marguerite, Juliette), the latter type of role being conceived for the divine Caroline Miolan-Carvalho, wife of the director of the Théâtre-Lyrique.