A rarity this weekend.Excerpts from the first (and only) act of an unfinished opera by the late 19th century French composer Emanuel Chabrier. With a cast featuring Christiane Castelli,Soprano – Berthe Monmart mezzo-Soprano – Rémy Corazza, Tenor – Claude Calès, baritone and Jacques Mars, bass. The Lyric Orchestra of the ORTF is conducted by Tony Aubin and this 1963 recording was done for broadcast by the ORTF in Paris, and these excerpts were distributed via their overseas transcription service.
Most people think of Emanuel Chabrier as the one who gave us España and a lot of Piano pieces. But Chabrier was also a prolific vocal composer and many of his operas have been performed regularly throughout the past 100+ years since his death.
But Briseïs was never finished, never getting past the first act. Subsequently, it’s rarely performed, but it has been recorded in recent years as-is, leaving the listener to figure out what the missing acts may have sounded like. The Lyric Drama, based on a story by Goethe, was intended to be a full three act presentation. And from all accounts, it was probably going to be quite a daunting undertaking, as the first act alone stretched to some 75 minutes. Chabrier completed the first act and orchestrated it, but also sketched out the remaining two acts. He asked several friends, including Vincent d’Indy to finish it, but the task was too complicated to complete and by this time, Chabrier was too ill to take on the responsibility himself.
When Chabrier died, his heirs took up the mission to attempt a completion of the opera, asking a number of composer friends of his, including Debussy, if they could finish it. All said no. And so the opera has stayed incomplete ever since.
Even listening to this excerpted version of Act I, it’s clear it was going to be something special. But what that was going to be and how it was going to take form was anybody’s guess.
So here is that excerpted version of Act I of Brtseïs with soloists and the ORTF Lyric Orchestra conducted by Tony Aubin.
Something different tonight – enjoy – and you don’t have to sing along . . .honest.