Cherubini: Les Abencérages or The Standard of Grenada / Vashegyi, Orfeo Orchestra

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Cherubini’s Les Abencérages, premiered in 1813, heralds the spectacle and extravagance of Romantic grand opera. From the Alhambra gardens to the battlefield, the action skillfully intertwines political conspiracies with a love story. Underpinned by the energy and timbres of period instruments, this recording demonstrates the work’s modernity and its musical qualities. Anaïs Constans valiantly tackles the demanding role of Noraïme, while Edgaras Montvidas displays his lyric tenor voice in a series of sublime airs whose beauty was already hinted at by none other than Roberto Alagna in a recital disc released in 2003. Around this couple, a plethoric cast of soloists (Dolié, Sargsyan, Williams, Martin, Lavoie, etc.) achieves the same high standards of French diction and style. The Hungarian conductor György Vashegyi, flanked by the Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra, reveals here another key milestone of French Romantic opera.


Unstaged in Paris for over two centuries Les Abencérages, a kind of ‘missing link’ in the history of French opera, has been disinterred by Bru Zane. The overture with its two warring themes – romantic passion versus battlefield chivalry – announce a changed sensibility where the political is properly personal.

György Vashegyi and the Orfeo Orchestra find Beethoven – drums and trumpets and driving rhythms – in Cherubini’s score, and hints at the start of Act III of the Romanticism to come with Mendelssohn. While Étienne de Jouy’s libretto is set in the exotic Alhambra of late-15th century Moorish Grenada, its spectacle and masterly use of the chorus suggests the coming French Grand Opéra. Its story presents two warring factions within the last Spanish caliphate ready to be reconciled through the warrior Almazor’s marriage to Princess Norïme. That is until the villainous Vizier Alémar starts to plot!

Cherubini’s vocal line is free of Italian decorative thrills. Anaïs Constans handles Norïme’s high tessitura with grace, and Edgaras Montvidas’s Almanzor is a worthy heir to Louis Nourrit, the tenor who created the role in 1813. His farewell when exiled from Grenada having ‘lost’ the kingdom’s sacred standard on the battlefield is properly affecting.

Yet it’s the Purcell Choir who steal the vocal honours, with magnificent singing by the women in Act I as they prepare for the wedding, and the men rattling their vocal sabres handsomely as the plot thickens in Act II. For all that, the musical history is perhaps more striking than the opera itself.

-- BBC Music Magazine

Product Description:

  • Release Date: November 11, 2022

  • UPC: 8055776010076

  • Catalog Number: BZ1050

  • Label: Bru Zane

  • Number of Discs: 3

  • Period: Classical

  • Composer: Luigi Cherubini

  • Conductor: Gyorgy Vashegyi

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Orfeo Orchestra, Purcell Choir

  • Performer: Anais Constans, Edgaras Montvidas, Thomas Dolie, Artavadz Sargsyan, Philippe-Nicolas Martin, Tomislav Lavoie, Douglas Williams, Lorant Najbauer, Agnes Pinter


  1. Les Abencérages, ou L'étendard de Grenade

    Composer: Luigi Cherubini

    Ensemble: Orfeo Orchestra, Purcell Choir

    Performer: Douglas Williams; Edgaras Montvidas, Lóránt Najbauer, Agnés Pinter, Thomas Dolié, Philippe-Nicolas Martin, Anaïs Constans, Tomislav Lavoie, Artavazd Sargsyan

    Conductor: György Vashegyi