Le Cid at Valencia

SpainSpain Jules Massenet, Le Cid:  Soloists, Valencia Community Orchestra, Valencia Regional Government Chorus, Plácido Domingo (conductor), Palau de les Arts, Valencia, 24.4.2012 (JMI)

Concert Version


Rodrigue: Jorge De León
Chimène: Liudmila Monastyrska
Don Diegue: Hao Jiang Tian
Comte Gormas: Felipe Bou
L’Infante: Micaëla Oeste
Le Roi: James Rutherford
Saint Jacques: Josep Miquel Ramón

With Jules Massenet’s Le Cid, Valencia’s Palau de Les arts ends its regular season with yet another concert version of an opera. There have been already three and there will two more at the Festival del Mediterráneo in June… a sign of how hard the crisis has hit opera houses in Spain.

Le Cid has not been seen in Spain for about 14 years, when it was offered at Seville with Placido Domingo as the protagonist. Based on the work by Corneille, it was premiered in Paris in 1885 and it belongs to the genre of Grand Opera, ballet included. Chronologically, it sits between the two masterworks by Massenet, Manon and Werther, but its musical quality is not comparable. Of the 15 Massenet operas I had the opportunity to see, Le Cid is decidedly below the average. There is too much Oom pah pah with only a few inspired pages between, including the famous arias “Pleurez, mes yeux”, “O Souverain”, and the duet of Rodrigue and Chimène that closes act III. Throughout the rest of the opera: much ado about nothing. If we add to this the need for two singers with true spinto-dramatic voices, it’s no wonder that Le Cid is so rarely performed.

available at Amazon
J.Massenet, Le Cid,
E.Queler / Opera Orch. New York
P.Domingo, G.Bumbry et al.

Plácido Domingo has a close relationship with the Palau de Les Arts where he has been a regular since its inauguration in 2006. The school for young voices carries his name. Valencia even invites him regularly to conduct. No wonder that ‘Superman’ has made his debut as Athanael here and that he’ll be the protagonist of I Due Foscari next year. In this Le Cid we had Placido Domingo involved as a conductor, although is well known that his baton is not at the same level as his voice. Massenet’s operas are quite complex and they require conductors very familiar with the works of the French composer. The reading by Maestro Domingo was efficient, but the orchestra was too loud and not attentive to the nuances that are so important in Massenet’s operas. From the overture on it was obvious what his reading would be like. The audience at Valencia is used to hear operas under great conductors, and they have received triumphal receptions. Tellingly, that did not happen to Mr. Domingo on his final bow, despite his popularity. The Orchestra, meanwhile, performed at its usual excellent level.

Jorge De Leon gave life to Rodrigue, Le Cid and he showed a fine voice, well suited to the demands of the character. De Leon has everything needed for the part vocally, but he is short of expressiveness, always had his eyes on the score, the much anticipated aria “O Souverain” fell emotionally short, and his French leaves something to be desired.

Ukrainian soprano Liudmila Monastyrska handled the character of Chimène deftly. Again: at least in pure vocal terms. She is a true spinto-dramatic soprano with a wide middle range and high notes that are both beautiful and powerful. The bottom range, though audible, is not as good. Her Chimène was powerful and also able to produce excellent soft hues. She was good in her aria “Pleurez, mes yeux”, though slightly uninvolved. Her French is unintelligible.

The other characters have much less importance than the two protagonists. Bass Hao Jiang Tian was a fine Don Diegue, Le Cid’s father. Felipe Bou was serviceable as Count Gormaz. Micaëla Oeste (L’Infante) offered good looks and a small voice. James Rutherford had a pleasant voice as the King, but little projection.

José Mª Irurzun