Author Topic: Alberic Magnard's Allegorical Opera Guercoueur- Obscure But Gorgeous  (Read 4607 times)

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Offline Superhorn

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  I've been listening to the excellent but unfortunately out of print EMI
recording of "Guercoueur " by the little-known but very interesting French composer Alberic Magnard (1865 -1914 ), who is probably best known for his symphonies, and who has been called "The French Bruckner ".
  This obscure but remarkable opera might also be called the French Parsifal , and Magnard was a great admirer of Wagner .  Wagner's influence is pervasive in the score, but the composer's own distintive voice is unmistakable . 
 Like Parsifal, Guercoueur is a slow-moving and deeply meditative opera , with powerful and radiantly beautiful music .  It's an allegorical story of idealism and the search for purity and truth in the turbulent and often ugly real world.
 The oipera, in three acts, opens up in a kind of strange non-christian heaven ruled by the spirit of truth, sung here by the late Hildegard Behrens. Guercoueur was the ruler of a kingdom on earth who was killed by his enemies and is now supposedly at peace in heaven. But he misses his beautiful young wife ,who has taken his disciple Heurtal as a lover, and who now wants to rule the people as a tyrant. Guercoueur,sung magnificently by Jose Van Dam, requests Truth to grant him life on earth again to address the situation, and is granted this.
 But back on earth, he experiences nothing but turmoil and stress.
  There are factions supporting and opposing Heurtal, and Guercoueur is
taken for an impostor and killed by an angry mob again.
  Back in heaven, he realizes how futile his efforts were and begs Truth for forgiveness, which she grants him. He is told that he must always maintain hope, and the opera ends peacefully.
  A strange story, but it's set to some magnificent music. If you love this kind of late 19th century French opera, you should definitely hear this.
 Michel Plasson conducts the Toulouse orchestra with great eloquence, and this not too well-known orchestra sounds absolutely world class.
 I borrowed this EMI recording from my library, and it may be hard to find, but it's definitely worth looking for.
  Gary Lakes (whatever happened to him?), sings Heurtal, and Nadine Denize is Guercouer's wife Giselle.




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Lilas Pastia

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Re: Alberic Magnard's Allegorical Opera Guercoueur- Obscure But Gorgeous
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2010, 08:17:20 PM »
I have the Plasson recording, but have listeded to it but once  :-\. Magnard is a very good composer. About his symphonies, Ansermet said ther were like the great german ones, in french translation. Someday I'll give Guercoeur another hearing.

Offline Wendell_E

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I see the EMI recording's finally being re-relased early next month!
« Last Edit: May 28, 2012, 07:43:25 AM by Wendell_E »
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Offline Sergeant Rock

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I see the EMI recording's finally being re-relased early next month!

Good news!

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Offline Superhorn

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    I'm really glad,too about the re-release, but I'm worried that EMI may not provide the libretto and an English traslation, which the original did.  Unfortuntately, they've failed to do this with a number of lesser-known operas which they've put into circulation again, such as with the
justly acclaimed  recording of Rousse'l's Padmavati , which I have in the original form .

Offline Wendell_E

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    I'm really glad,too about the re-release, but I'm worried that EMI may not provide the libretto and an English traslation, which the original did. 

It's a 3CD set "plus bonus disc with libretto & synoposis":  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007SAP7LC/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00

“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

Leon

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If the music is similar to Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande, then I would be interested in this recording.

Offline Wendell_E

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If only there were more operas similar to Pelléas et Mélisande!  The only Magnard I have in my collection is a string quartet, which I mainly got for another piece on the discs.  I've only listened to it once, I really need to give it another try.  In any case, I've pre-ordered Guercoueur.
“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

Offline val

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I heard Guercoeur many years ago and, to be honest, it didn't leave me a very strong impression. The 2nd part of the 2nd Act, "L'Amant" was perhaps the most impressive. But I remember the splendid performances of van Dam and Behrens.

Magnard composed another opera "Berenice" based on the tragedy of Racine, but I never heard it.

Offline Superhorn

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    I think the opera takes more thna one hearing to  appreciate its qualities.  I listened to it repeatedly when I borrowed it
from my library and became convinced of its stature . This is true of many long,complex operas which don't reveal their
secrets from one hearing .

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Here is a taster:


<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/TdvJfPWxGXI" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/TdvJfPWxGXI</a>
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato