No conductor working in the recording studios in the 1960s and beyond did more than Richard Bonynge to recover the sound of the 19th-century ballet, especially in its home of the Paris Opéra-Comique. A central figure in that culture was Adolphe Adam who supplied vaudevilles, ballets, pastiches and comic operas over the course of three prolific decades. He wrote with extraordinary facility, producing his balletic masterpiece ‘Giselle’ in three weeks and creating up to six new shows in a single year for the insatiable Parisian public.
With two recordings of ‘Giselle’ and a critically acclaimed recording of the opera ‘Le Toréador’, Bonynge has been Adam’s most distinguished modern advocate on records; Eloquence has also reissued his 1990 recording of ‘Le Corsaire’ (482 8605), Adam’s final ballet score before his early death from a heart attack, aged just 52, in 1856. This new anthology includes the overture from ‘Le Toréador’ as one of the substantial bonus items to a little known two-act ballet, ‘Le Diable à quatre’.
This was made in 1964 with the luxurious support of the London Symphony Orchestra and the legendary Decca producer Christopher Raeburn behind the glass. The Decca recording team captured the delicious, piquant colours of this music – conveyed with such flair by Bonynge – in vivid detail.
Opening this new collection are two overtures from even more obscure productions, ‘Giralda’ and ‘La Poupée de Nuremburg’. These were serendipitously recorded as part of an album of ‘French Romantic Overtures’ with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in March 1969: the conductor had been working with the English Chamber Orchestra on a new recording of ‘Messiah’ with his wife, Dame Joan Sutherland when vocal indisposition required her to fly home to Switzerland. During the studio time allotted for her to make a new recital album, this frothy collection of overtures was concocted and although it has never been reissued complete on CD, it scored a hit with the public as Adam’s music so reliably does.
La Poupée de Nuremberg: Overture
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera
Le Diable à quatre
London Symphony Orchestra
Recording Producers: David Harvey (Giralda, La Poupée de Nuremberg); Christopher Pope (Le Toréador); Christopher Raeburn (Le Diable à quatre
Balance Engineers: Kenneth Wilkinson (Giralda, La Poupée de Nuremberg); James Lock (Le Toréador); Arthur Lilley (Le Diable à quatre)
Recording Locations: Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 13–14 April 1964 (Le Diable à quatre), 26 February–3, 5 & 6 March 1969 (Giralda, La Poupée de Nuremberg); Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales, UK, 18–23 June 1996 (Le Toréador)
Original Decca LP and CD Releases: SXL 6422 (Giralda, La Poupée de Nuremberg); 455 6642 (Le Toréador); SXL 6188 (Le Diable à quatre)
‘Lots of pretty tunes and um-cha accompaniments nicely played and well recorded.’ Gramophone (Le Diable à quatre)
‘Richard Bonynge’s ability to persuade Decca to record out-of-the-way 19th-century French stage works has been to our repeated benefit over the past 40 years. Yet few of the results have been more welcome than this delightful operatic soufflé.’ Gramophone (Le Toréador)