Godard: Dante / Schirmer, Munich Radio Orchestra

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Dante Alighieri, born in Florence in 1265, was at once a poet and an important political figure of his time. His celebrated Divine Comedy relates...

Dante Alighieri, born in Florence in 1265, was at once a poet and an important political figure of his time. His celebrated Divine Comedy relates his supposed descent to Hell and slow ascent to Paradise. Godard’s operatic treatment of his life (1890) skilfully juxtaposes the political milieu – crowd scenes in Florence and the quarrel between Guelfs and Ghibellines – with the expression of the courtly love he feels for Beatrice, betrothed to his friend Bardi. The most remarkable element of the opera is the integration of a ‘Vision’ that is nothing less than a synthesis of the Divine Comedy set to music. Its third act is built around a fantasy ‘Hell’ and ‘Paradise’, featuring an Apparition of Virgil, Chorus of the Damned, Infernal Whirlwind, Divine Radiance and Apotheosis of Beatrice. Godard is here at the peak of his melodic inspiration and compositional mastery, in a style that brings Gounod up to date and need not fear comparison with Massenet.


In this musically and stylistically adept performance, the listener will be distressed only by a lack of vocal weight in the two leads, especially Edgaras Montvidas’s Dante (though his characterization features all the necessary passion). Véronique Gens’s Béatrice, too, is hard-pressed in the heavier episodes, but as always, the soprano’s artistry abounds in elegance and unforced charm.

Key supporting roles feature mezzo Rachel Frenkel (as Gemma), a splendidly musical artist with an exceptionally colorful timbre, and baritone Jean-François Lapointe (as Bardi), whose wonderfully velvety instrument sails on top. The small roles are finely performed by bass-baritone Andrew Foster-Williams (as Old Man and Ghost of Virgil), tenor Andrew Lepri Meyer (as Herald) and in particular mezzo Diana Assenti (as Student), who’s enchanting in the Student’s ode to Virgil.

On the podium, Ulf Schirmer takes to Godard effortlessly, inspiring much lyrically rewarding and dramatically hair-raising playing. The chorus performs rousingly, although in merely serviceable French.

This release includes a beautifully illustrated, almost 150-page book with the full text and an English translation, a first-hand account of the premiere from the journal Le Charivari, an in-depth musical analysis and articles focusing on the attention paid to Dante in nineteenth-century music and art.

-- Opera News

Product Description:

  • Release Date: October 27, 2017

  • UPC: 9788469748794

  • Catalog Number: ES1029

  • Label: Ediciones Singulares

  • Number of Discs: 2

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Benjamin Godard

  • Conductor: Ulf Schirmer

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bavarian Radio Choir, Munich Radio Orchestra

  • Performer: Edgaras Montvidas, Jean-François Lapointe, Rachel Frenkel, Véronique Gens


  1. Le Dante, Op. 111

    Composer: Benjamin Godard

    Ensemble: Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Choir

    Performer: Edgaras Montvidas (Tenor), Véronique Gens (Soprano), Jean-François Lapointe (Baritone), Rachel Frenkel (Mezzo Soprano), Andrew Foster-Williams (Bass-Baritone), Diana Axentii (Soprano), Andrew Lepri Meyer (Tenor)

    Conductor: Ulf Schirmer