Gounod: Faust / Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques

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Gounod contemplated a Faust opera as early as his residence in Rome in the 1840s. But almost twenty years were to elapse before one of the most famous works of French Romanticism was premiered at the Théâtre-Lyrique (1859). Its debut at the Opéra in 1869 propelled the work into theatres all over the world, but numerous modifications were the price of achieving that fame. Between the Faust of 1859 and its counterpart of 1869, some of the spirit has evaporated: the spontaneity of the spoken dialogue and melodrama, the pawky humour of Dame Marthe, the cynicism of Méphistophélès. We have forgotten the charm of the first tenors who sang ‘Salut, demeure chaste et pure’ with the timbre typical of the voix mixte of opéra-comique. Moreover, a large number of pieces were consigned to oblivion by these modifications. To discover this first Faust is to gain a deeper insight into the French aesthetic of demi-caractère, so specific to Paris in the 1850s.


The version of Faust known and beloved by operaphiles is a grand opera, sung throughout. But Gounod originally conceived of the work as an opéra-comique, with spoken dialogue and melodramas interspersed between the purely sung portions. The 1859 Faust is a strikingly different work from its familiar grand opera successor. And I am not at all prepared to say that is an inferior one. Had the Bru Zane recording been merely professional and competent, it still would have been of great importance. But this is a superb achievement, with a marvelous cast, led by Bernheim in the title role. Conductor Christophe Rousset, leading the period instrument Les Talens Lyrique, provides a reading that is a revelation in terms of propulsive momentum, dramatic bite, and an exploration of Gounod’s sound world. You may find yourself shocked at how revolutionary and thrilling Gounod’s warhorse sounds in the hands of these artists. This is the type of project that epitomizes the potential and value of sound recordings.

-- Fanfare

Product Description:

  • Release Date: August 23, 2019

  • Catalog Number: BZ1037

  • UPC: 9788409126347

  • Label: Bru Zane

  • Number of Discs: 3

  • Period: Romantic

  • Composer: Camille Saint-Saëns

  • Conductor: Christophe Rousset

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Les Talens Lyriques, Flemish Radio Choir

  • Performer: Benjamin Bernheim. Véronique Gens, Andrew Foster-Williams, Jean-Sébastien Bou, Juliette Mars, Anas Séguin, Ingrid Perruche


  1. Faust

    Composer: Charles Gounod

    Ensemble: Les Talens Lyriques, Flemish Radio Choir

    Performer: Benjamin Bernheim (Tenor), Véronique Gens (Soprano), Andrew Foster-Williams (Bass-Baritone), Jean-Sébastien Bou (Baritone), Juliette Mars (Mezzo Soprano), Anas Séguin (Baritone), Ingrid Perruche (Soprano)

    Conductor: Christophe Rousset