Véronique Gens / Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset TRAGÉDIENNES 2

This is the second instalment of Véronique Gens's Tragédiennes series, which examines how francophone composers from the 18th and early 19th centuries dealt with the heroines of classical tragedy. Classical, in this context, means Racine as well as Greek and Roman drama, though Gens contentiously widens the definition even further at one point to include a chunk of Sacchini's Renaud, based on Tasso's Renaissance epic Gerusalemme Liberata. The programme is variable, with giants such as Gluck and Berlioz placed alongside also-rans such as Piccinni and Grétry. All of it, however, requires the ability to sing words as well as phrases, and Gens's immaculate way with a text is often as mesmerising as her ability to sustain the long sculpted lines that are a common stylistic feature among her chosen composers. There are some surprises: she sings Cassandra's music from Berlioz's Les Troyens, where we might expect to hear her as Dido; when she turns to Cherubini's Medea, for what is probably the greatest track on the disc, it is to play the sorrowing maid Neris, rather than the pathological heroine. Her accompanists are Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques, a bit lightweight in Berlioz, but startling and effective elsewhere. (Tim Ashley / The Guardian)


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