La Scena Musicale

Monday, 7 October 2013

Joseph Rouleau - Russian Operas

Russian Operas 
CD: Live performances from Soiree de musique russe (1972)
DVD: Boris Godounov (Death of Boris) from Societe Radio-Canada Les Beaux Dimanches (1983) 
Joseph Rouleau, bass
Analekta AN 2 9223-4  CD (39m  9s)  / DVD (27m 30s)

French Canadian bass Joseph Rouleau is the epitome of the operatic evergreen. Born in 1929 in Matane, Quebec, Rouleau's career began in 1950. Now 84, he is still singing!  In an interview he gave for the CBC last year, Rouleau explains the secret of his longevity - Link.  Here is a previously unreleased 1972 live performance on Radio-Canada of Russian arias. Eight arias from Prince Igor to Eugene Onegin representing the heart of the repertoire, all sung with rich tone, impressive power and vivid expression, with the kind of gravitas that only the great basso profondo voices can summon. The low notes in the aria from Iolanta will send chills down your spine. Rouleau is a great Verdian - an unforgettable King Philip - but many think that he's born to sing the Russian repertoire. For this review, I consulted an opera expert who is also a native Russian speaker, and he confirms that Rouleau's Russian is exemplary. He also points out an oddity - Dosifei's aria from Khovanshchina with piano ( a track from the BBC) is sung in very Russian-sounding English!  It's a pity that the CD is only 39 minutes long, but one is compensated by the inclusion of a DVD bonus of Death of Boris from 1983. If there is a criticism, it is the insufficient documentation - the conductor of the 1972 performance, Jean Deslauriers, is only mentioned in small print in the liner notes, absolutely no mention of fellow artists in the Death of Boris video. The audio and video are vintage 1970's. The booklet has a short bio and an equally short article. No text or translations. A must-have for fans of Rouleau and lovers of the bass voice.  JOSEPH  K  SO

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