OP3338. ESCLARMONDE (Massenet), Live Performance, 11 Dec., 1976, w.Bonynge Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Joan Sutherland, Giacomo Aragall, Huguette Tourangeau, Clifford Grant, John Macurdy, Louis Quilico & John Carpenter. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-986.
“Just as sausage can be best enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of its preparation and contents, one should slide slowly into the luxuriant bath that is Massenet’s ESCLARMONDE and leave the libretto far to the side. Massenet’s melodic inspiration didn't blossom as lyrically as in his more famous scores, but his gift for orchestral color gets a full work out. Horns dominate, aside large, almost cantata-like blocks of music for chorus. Bonygne assembled a tremendous cast, starting with his wife, Joan Sutherland. Sutherland gets to sing more lyrically and passionately than one usually expects from her, and she sounds simply gorgeous. As Roland, Giacomo Aragall gives evidence of the beauty and power of his voice that makes one shake one’s head that he never quite established himself as the star he could have been. The supporting cast, all excellent, features Huguette Tourangeau, Clifford Grant, Louis Quilico, and a young Graham Clark. So depending on one’s appetite for high-fat, low-protein musical concoctions, this ESCLARMONDE will either delight or revolt. The opera certainly couldn't receive a finer performance.”
Chris Mullins, OPERA TODAY
“The little-known Massenet extravaganza ESCLARMONDE is a stunning vehicle for Joan Sutherland.... ESCLARMONDE is vintage French grand opera, written for Sibyl Sanderson of the three-octave range. Miss Sutherland and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge, have revived it. Is this music from the muse that ESCLARMONDE leaves you humming a tune? Nor do any principals have a major, show-stopping aria, but the sense of unity, of opera as a totality - not to mention a melodic-atmospheric scene painting of surprising vividness - must make us reconsider the composer. Mr. Bonynge conducts one of the greatest performances of his career. The orchestra pit is several feet higher than usual - and the orchestra sounds gorgeous for it. Bonynge melds, and blends the sounds perfectly. He has a magnificent cast to help him out.
Miss Sutherland is ravishing vocally. The lowest tones create some problems, the very top lacks ease, but the upper-middle voice is so haunting, so resonant and communicative - there is no sound like it today. ESCLARMONDE is another triumph for her. Giacomo Aragall is handsome, virile, and the voice - when it does not cloud over - rings brightly and appealingly. Huguette Tourangeau impressed anew in her small role; Louis Quilico's baritone sounded tired and insecure; newcomer Clifford Grant possesses a rich, resonant bass - a striking addition to the roster. John Carpenter, new to the Met this season, has a promising tenor.”
- Thor Eckert Jr., THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 13 Dec., 1976