Diana Damrau : soprano
Nadine Sierra : soprano
Anita Rachvelishvili : mezzo-soprano
Bryan Hymel : tenor
Ludovic Tézier : baritone
Renaud Capuçon : violin
Gautier Capuçon : cello
Maîtrise de Radio France Chœur de Radio France
Sofi Jeannin : choral direction
Orchestre National de France
Valery Gergiev : direction
Christian Knapp : chief assistant
The International Opera Awards have announced the 2016 nominations, selected by a jury chaired by John Allison, editor of Opera magazine and classical music critic for The Daily Telegraph.
Hot on the heels of her GRAMMY win for the Wigmore Hall recital album Joyce & Tony, Joyce DiDonato is among the top singers to vote for in the category of Opera Readers' Award.
Two very different Warner Classics and Erato albums are represented in the Best Complete Opera category. Handel's Partenope with Baroque orchestra Il Pomo d'Oro led by violinist-conductor Riccardo Minasi, has been hailed "one of the best Handel opera recordings to appear for some time" by Sinfini, which praised "Minasi and his superb cast lead by Karina Gauvin’s magnificent Partenope, the queen who has to chose between many suitors. They include Philippe Jaroussky’s seductively suave Arsace and the pure Armindo, sung by exceptionally sweet-voiced soprano Emőke Barath."
Also in the same category is Warner Classics' blockbuster recording of Aïda from Rome, with maestro Antonio Pappano's hand-picked cast featuring Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk and Erwin Schrott. With studio opera recordings of this scale now a rarity, the critics took notice: Aïda has already been crowned The Times classical album of the year, also winning the Classica Choc d'Année and the Diapason d'Or for Opera of the Year.
In the Best Opera Recital Album category, Warner Classics and Erato have another two superlative artists going head to head among the nominees. Diana Damrau's Fiamma del belcanto is the German coloratura soprano's first album devoted entirely to Italian opera, including an aria from one of her signature roles, Violetta. Opera News wrote: "The intelligent and musical soprano Diana Damrau captivates listeners with endlessly imaginative vocal colourings and her handling of text with seemingly natural ease...Damrau always goes beyond the obvious musical choices, and her readings bristle with lively thought and immediacy."
From Italian arias to French grand opéra: American heroic tenor Bryan Hymel is nominated in the same category for his debut album on Warner Classics, Héroïque. His powerful high notes and musical sensitivity have led NPR to declare: "If Hymel had been born a generation earlier we might have had The Four Tenors. That's how good he is."
American tenor Bryan Hymel has proven himself in some of the most demanding French operatic repertoire; demonstrating his vocal power, range and finesse on his debut album Héroïque, alongside a busy schedule including important dates at the Opéra de Paris, Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
This week, on 17 February, he returns to Paris for a recital at the historic Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, taking on grand opera arias and duets by Massenet, Bizet (Carmen, for which he recently sang the role of Don José at London's Royal Opera House), Gounod and Saint-Saëns, alongside Italian favourites from Puccini, Verdi and Mascagni.
His duo partner? None other than his wife, Greek soprano Irini Kyriakidou, in the couple's first Paris recital together.
An opportunity to experience the voice that the whole opera world is talking about: "Pavarotti, roll over. There’s a new king of the high Cs.…" (NPR).
Hymel also gives a recital on 25 February at London's Wigmore Hall.
Bryan Hymel, the American tenor who keeps scaling new heights, is the cover star of the current issue of Opera News magazine. The in-depth interview feature follows his journey to the top: from how Hurricane Katrina in his native New Orleans galvinised him as an artist ("It’s at that point that I became a fighter...It’s at that point that I chose to be a singer.") to struggling Juilliard student, to his big break and beyond.
"Hymel’s Met performances as Énée [in Berlioz's Les Troyens] made for one of the most exciting last-minute switches in years — the sort of dramatic debut that doesn’t happen often," writes Brian Kellow in the article. "It was the second time in six months that Hymel had rescued Les Troyens. Early that summer, he had been called to substitute for an ailing Jonas Kaufmann in Covent Garden’s production of the opera, just a month before opening night."
Énée's magnificent aria Inutiles regrets from that opera has become one of Hymel's signature pieces, and features on his debut album Héroïque, a selection of demanding French arias for the rare, high-flying heroic tenor voice - Hymel's specialty.
Read the full Opera News article on Bryan Hymel, 'High Stakes', here.
During his album launch recital at the Salle Cortot on 9 February, just days after his Philharmonie de Paris debut, New Orleans-born tenor Bryan Hymel thanked his captivated French audience. "These are your treasures, this is your culture, your language. I'm honoured to sing these arias."
French radio station Radio Classique hailed Hymel the "new ambassador of French Romantic opera, a genre known for its extreme vocal demands". Hymel was interviewed this week by Laure Mezan on Le Journal du Classique.
BH: I think there’s something in the way my throat is made and put together, that lends itself to this music. The repertoire found me and then my voice responded to it, I’d say. When I was studying in school about ten years ago in Philidelphia, Asile héréditaire [from Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, one of the tracks on the album] was given to me to work on. Just the way that it fit my voice like some other things that I found. That started off this, and later I came to Berlioz when I sang Les Troyens, in Amsterdam, in getting to know that music, and see the way that it turns and how the top notes are approached. My voice responded. From then on I started looking for opportunities to do this music, and people came to me because there are not many tenors who can sing this stuff. When Covent Garden came to me to offer Robert le Diable they said “If you can’t do it, we’re not doing the opera”. I said, “Well, give me a few months to learn it and see how it feels after that, and I’ll come back to you.” Happily, it all turned out well!
This repertoire is incredibly challenging and difficult; you must need a lot of training to get those high notes.
BH: It’s not just the high notes, because lighter voices might have an easier time. Going up there and staying up there, with the weight my voice has and the size that it has, it’s rarer to find that. And because of the size of the orchestra and the way that Rossini and Meyerbeer orchestrated these things, this is more the sort of voice they had in mind, because lighter voices struggle to be heard over such a full orchestra, certainly in Robert le Diable where it’s a big issue.
But there is also a lot of tenderness and elegance which is the trademark of French music.
BH: Of course, it’s certainly not just loud and high all the time because that’s wearing on the ears and it’s boring. I think it’s also not very artistic. If you look at the duet of Didon and Enée Nuit d’ivresse , it has to be really tender or else you wonder, ‘Why would she fall for this guy?’ Maybe she would be impressed with his victory and glory in battle, but there wouldn’t be any sensuality, she wouldn’t say these words, she wouldn’t sacrifice herself at the end for a guy who just sings loud. We wouldn’t believe that.
That’s part of the style of French opera. Opera as an art form is about reflecting life. It’s not always soft and sensual or always loud; you have to have both. I think that that just accentuates the reflection of life in art.
This repertoire isn’t very well known even in France. How do you convince the public to listen?
BH: I can say that certainly the music is beautiful and it’s worth being done. I think times change and tastes change, and there will be a renaissance for this repertoire, just by doing this album and putting it back out there. If people say “Isn’t that a shame?” I’d say no, that’s great because if people hear an aria from the album and think it’s great they’ll Google it, they’ll want more. Caruso had done some of these Massenet Hérodiade arias, which I wouldn’t have expected him to have done. It was a much more standard repertoire back then. I hope it will come back and I would love to sing Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète and L’Africaine, there are some opera houses doing it but it’s still rare.
You will sing at the Opera de Paris (La Damnation de Faust) next season. You sang the marvelous Sanctus. You were in the middle of the orchestra surrounded by the musicians. How did you feel?
BH: I felt great. The acoustic is marvelous and the swirling architecture helps the performers hear every little thing. It was overwhelming to be in there and you have trumpets and trombones coming at you… This is exactly what Berlioz had in mind; it had to be. I was the first tenor to sing a solo in the Philharmonie; I was very honoured to do that, and to do Berlioz.
You don’t sing only French repertoire. What’s your next production?
BH: I’m singing Rodolfo in La Bohème. I love singing that first line about looking out on the thousands of rooftops and chimneys of Paris. It’s a beautiful image to start an opera, and it also takes place on Christmas Eve. When I was singing in Bordeaux last year I decided to spend Christmas Eve in Paris. I went to the Notre Dame for the Messe de Minuit, I drank vin chaud (mulled wine), I had a wonderful time there, it was really special for me!
In this new video from Bryan Hymel's highly anticipated debut album of French arias, the American tenor records 'Amis, amis, secondez ma vengeance,' from the notoriously demanding role of Arnold in Rossini's epic Guillaume Tell.
The role of Arnold, and in particular the powerful call to arms of this cabaletta, require a fearless tenor to produce multiple, sustained high Cs. Before recording the album Héroïque, Hymel had already mastered this repertoire in performances of Guillaume Tell at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2014. “Bryan Hymel tackles the murderously high part of Arnold with bravura and brilliance; it is thrilling to hear him,” (Financial Times); “Bryan Hymel was outstanding in the nearly impossible role of Arnold Melchtal… [he] exhibited an envious sense of lyrical phrasing and no audible strain in the extended upper register.” (Opera News)
It is just one high-impact moment on an album that resounds with no fewer than 19 top Cs. This video of the recording session also features Emmanuel Villaume's energetic conducting of the Prague Philharmonia.
The album Héroïque is coming soon.
In the space of just a few years, the American tenor Bryan Hymel has become the king of French grand opéra, astonishing audiences at Covent Garden and then the Met as a last-minute replacement for Jonas Kaufmann in one of the most difficult of all tenor roles: Enée (Aeneas) in Berlioz's Les Troyens."Mr Hymel sang with unflagging stamina and impetuous abandon, capped with some exciting full-voiced top notes," The New York Times wrote of his Metropolitan Opera triumph.
And it's with opulent French operatic repertoire that Hymel makes his solo recording debut: Héroïque is an album of arias that demand a rare and thrilling heroism in both voice and style, from Rossini's Guillaume Tell to Meyerbeer, Massenet, Gounod, and of course Berlioz.
His success in meeting Rossini’s challenges becomes clear in reviews of Guillaume Tell at the Bayerische Staastoper in 2014: “Bryan Hymel tackles the murderously high part of Arnold with bravura and brilliance; it is thrilling to hear him,” (Financial Times); “Bryan Hymel was outstanding in the nearly impossible role of Arnold Melchtal… [he] exhibited an envious sense of lyrical phrasing and no audible strain in the extended upper register.” (Opera News)
“French music of this kind makes considerable technical demands,” Hymel explains of the music that has become his specialty and driving passion. “It’s a question of applying bel canto technique while shading the words in a way that works for the vocal line. And although this album emphasises heroic music and heroic characters – and the vocal lines require a total of 19 high Cs, two high C sharps and one D – there is also a great deal of lyricism. All the characters and their arias are heroic in some way – but they are certainly not all the same.”
Héroïque will be released in February 2015. More information here.
American tenor Bryan Hymel, hailed a "simply ideal Puccini interpreter" (Frankfurter Allgemeine), has signed an exclusive recording contract with Warner Classics. Set for release in early 2015, the album will showcase Hymel's acclaimed interpretations of some of French opera’s most challenging repertoire. The Prague Philharmonia, under the direction of prominent French conductor Emmanuel Villaume, will partner with Hymel on this debut recording.
Alain Lanceron, President of Warner Classics, said: "With a series of exceptional performances that have captured the hearts of audiences around the world — most notably at London’s Royal Opera House and New York’s Metropolitan Opera — Bryan Hymel has rapidly established himself as a leading light among the new generation of tenors. We are therefore delighted to launch our relationship with this accomplished and distinctive artist with an album of French arias."
"I am thrilled to be invited to make my debut solo recording with Warner Classics," Hymel said. "The legacy of this label includes recordings of some of the greatest artists in history, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to record the repertoire that has brought me to leading theaters around the world." Hymel was last year's winner of the Metropolitan Opera's Beverly Sills Award for his last-minute debut with that company as Enée in Berlioz's Les Troyens. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera for his trio of performances in Les Troyens, Robert le diable, and Rusalka.
One of the opera world's fastest-rising stars, Hymel continues to perform leading repertoire in the music capitals of Europe and the US, including a role debut as Arnold in Rossini's Guillaume Tell with the Bayerische Staatsoper in June, and house and role debuts as Percy in Anna Bolena with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in December.
Praised by The New York Times for his "unflagging stamina and impetuous abandon," Hymel reprises his renowned portrayal of Énée in Les Troyens next summer in his debut at the San Francisco Opera. He returns to the Metropolitan Opera stage in September of this year as Rodolfo in La bohème, a signature role.
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