Gounod: Cinq-Mars

Reviewed on Wed 12 Oct, 2016

Gounod’s music is full of contrasting colour, and all the roles are portrayed and sung really well. The orchestration is glorious and the whole effect highly dramatic.

Set in France in the time of Louis XIII and the formidable Cardinal Richelieu, the Marquis of Cinq-Mars is requested to lead those plotting against the Cardinal. Richelieu is represented throughout by the sinister Père Joseph, who demands that Cinq-Mars’s beloved, Princess Marie, marries the King of Poland. His fury about this directs Cinq-Mars’s decision to accept this lead, and he is ultimately arrested and condemned to death. Marie is tricked into thinking she can save him by marrying the Polish King but this is false – as was Scarpia’s promise to Tosca! Interwoven with all this is the strong friendship between Cinq-Mars and de Thou, who disagrees with his actions but remains loyal to him. Written in 1877 for the Opéra-Comique, there was originally spoken word rather than sung recitative. Gounod himself revised the opera, and in this wonderful recording there is the traditional French use of long, accompanied recitatives flowing between characters and interspersed with a number of short airs. The orchestration is glorious and the whole effect highly dramatic. Traditionally French, too, is the plentiful use of chorus and a balletic ‘entertainment’ in Act II. Of course there are also some lengthy songs, duets and ensembles. Gounod’s music is full of contrasting colour, and all the roles are portrayed and sung really well. The libretto is included with this beautifully presented operatic gem.
–Ruth Piatkus