Through scholarship, performance and recording, Richard Bonynge has done more than any other modern-day musician to advance the cause of Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, the foremost composer of opéra-comique in nineteenth-century Paris. What he wrote was ‘Simple, joyous and unsophisticated music,’ according to Bonynge: this is his sole recording of a complete opera by Auber.
‘Le Domino Noir’ is a tale of amorous intrigue in royal Madrid, set in the theatrically promising context of a masked ball and a convent. Drama and libretto were fashioned by Eugène Scribe who later worked with Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and many others but he formed an especially long-lasting and fruitful partnership with Auber. This is one of their joint masterpieces: the embodiment in music and drama of the witty, polished and worldly Parisian life of the time. The music sparkles; it has lightness and facility; it is essentially graceful and elegant.
When it was first released in 1995, this Decca recording was universally welcomed as a significant marker in the revival of Auber’s reputation: he was writing for singers of virtuoso technique with a lightness and grace that is not commonly found in our own time but Bonynge assembled a cast which was more than equal to the challenge.
In the booklet notes, Jeremy Commons sets ‘Le Domino Noir’ in the context of Auber’s long career and his happy partnership with Scribe. There is also a synopsis and a performance note in which Bonynge explains his decisions to cut and reshape the dialogue and to elaborate some of the vocal lines after the common practice of Auber’s day. A complementary issue on Eloquence (482 7730) surveys Bonynge’s quarter-century of Auber on record in arias, overtures and ballet music.
Le Domino noir
Angèle d’Olivarès – Sumi Jo
Brigitte de San Lucar – Isabelle Vernet
Horace de Massarena – Bruce Ford
Count Juliano – Patrick Power
Jacinthe – Martine Olmeda
Gil Perez – Jules Bastin
Ursule – Doris Lamprecht
La tourière – Jocelyne Taillon
Lord Elfort – Gilles Cachemaille
Gustave III, ou le Bal masqué – Ballet Music
English Chamber Orchestra
Recording Producers: Michael Woolcock (Le Domino noir); Christopher Pope (Le Domino noir, Gustave III)
Balance Engineers: James Lock, Colin Moorfoot, Philip Siney (Le Domino noir); Neil Hutchinson, Krzysztof Jarosz (Gustave III)
Recording Location: Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London, UK, 8–12 February 1993 (Le Domino noir), 3 April 1995 (Gustave III)
PENGUIN ROSETTE AWARD *** ‘Bonynge makes the ideal advocate, moulding melodies, springing rhythms and aerating textures to make the music sparkle from first to last. … The recording is among Decca’s most vivid.’ The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, 2009
‘Sumi Jo is an Angèle with the agility to handle fancy ornamentation and a range that reaches the stratosphere of high D. Bruce Ford handles the high tessitura of his part with little apparent strain and makes a good sound. The rest of the cast … are equal to the vocal and dramatic demands of their roles.’ Fanfare, May/June 2010
‘A winner, for the excellent performance and for Auber’s delightful score … The playing of the ECO under Bonynge is a constant pleasure as well as a revelation … Sumi Jo is an admirable Angele, her voice warm, supple and untiring throughout the long and taxing role… On no account miss ‘Le Domino Noir.’ Opera, March 1996