University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Gounod: La Reine de Saba

10/17/2021 1:00 pm
10/17/2021 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

I told you listeners how "you dunno Gounod like I know Gounod!" when I presented the world premiere recording of the original 1859 version of his world famous Faust on Sunday, June 20 of this year. That dark opéra comique, with spoken dialog, has quite a different effect on the ear than the later French grand opera we all know too well. Remember that Charles Gounod wrote twelve operas and some of them were not such big hits. There's a recording of his first opera Sapho (1851) that I presented on Sunday, June 13, 1999. Then there's Gounod's bloody thriller, his second opera La Nonne Sanglante (1854) that went over the air at Halloweentide on the last Sunday of October, 2011 in its world premiere recording for the German CPO record label, with the performing forces of Theater Osnabrück.

Now along comes the world premiere on disc of Gounod's third opera La Reine de Saba, "The Queen of Sheba," in its restored five-act 1863 version. This is Gounod's first attempt at lavish grand opera following in the footsteps of Meyerbeer and his Robert le Diable (1831). Such a full restoration would include the requisite ballet sequence in Act Four. The Queen of Sheba, here called Balkis, a woman of legendary beauty, is betrothed to King Soliman (Soloman), but when she arrives in Jerusalem for the nuptials she promptly falls in love with the architect of Soliman's monumental Temple. She attempts to put off the wedding, with tragic results. You won't get to see the grand onstage spectacle of La Reine de Saba, but you will certainly hear its musical score in all its glory, as Gil Rose conducts the Odyssey Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The recording was made in 2018 at Jordan Hall in Boston for release through the BMOP Sound label on three CD's in 2021. Starring as Queen Balkis is soprano Kara Shay Thomson.