October 06, 2015

Mozart's women: Sabine Devieilhe sheds light on the composer's love triangle

The French soprano's next album explores the secret life of Mozart through arias and songs for the Weber sisters.

“We have tried to sketch a portrait of Mozart in love.” – Sabine Devieilhe

Once again, Sabine Devieilhe is telling a love story in music – this time with the help of Mozart. The scintillating French soprano’s debut album on Erato, Le grand théâtre de l’amour, created a fictional narrative with music by Rameau in that composer’s bicentenary year.  Her next album The Weber Sisters, to be released on 6 November, is rooted in Mozart’s life story and includes music inspired by Aloysia, Konstanze and Josepha Weber, three soprano sisters whom Mozart first met in Mannheim in 1777, when he was 21. Though he initially fell in love with Aloysia, who went on to become a celebrated diva, she broke his heart and it was Konstanze who became his wife, outliving him by nearly 50 years.

The programme of The Weber Sisters comprises songs, operatic and concert arias and orchestral numbers, and Sabine Devieilhe sings them with beauty of tone, a penetrating sense of drama and a scrupulous respect for the score and the text. Three of the highlights are: the concert aria Popoli di Tessaglia – written for Aloysia – which rises to spectacular heights (specifically, the G two-and-a-half octaves above middle C); the sublime Et incarnatus est from the C minor Mass – premiered in Salzburg by Konstanze, and Der Hölle Rache, written for Josepha as the second fireworks-filled aria of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, a role in which Devieilhe has reigned supreme at the opera houses of Paris and Lyon.

The soprano is joined on this album by Ensemble Pygmalion, the keyboard player Arnaud de Pasquale and her husband, conductor Raphaël Pichon – adding yet another layer to this complex love story!

Le Figaro has praised Sabine Devieilhe, still in her twenties, as a singer whose name will “immediately go down in history. It is hard to know what to admire most: her technical facility, her vocal agility or her magnetic presence. Of course, it is the combination of all those elements that makes such an impact. Her virtuosity is never an end in itself.”

Amidst all the longing, heartbreak and joy that Mozart experienced with the Weber sisters and poured into his music for them, he was also known for enjoying a little scurrilous fun and – at the end of a predominantly serious programme – Sabine Devieilhe and the Ensemble Pygmalion regale the listener with an unlisted ‘hidden track’ that has a distinct twinkle in its eye.

Mozart: The Weber Sisters will be released on 6 November.