A worthy nod to French opera

It is likely that operatic composer Alfred Bruneau (1857 to 1934), a contemporary of Giacomo Puccini and Edward Elgar, is hardly known outside of his native France.

He was credited for introducing verismo into French opera, substituting mythical and historical characters with modern-day personalities, which contemporary audiences could better relate to.

This groundbreaking album brings together more than an hour of orchestral excerpts from his little-known and almost-forgotten operas.

A 22-minute suite comes from L'Attaque Du Moulin (The Attack On The Mill, 1893), a "lyric drama" inspired by a short story by Emile Zola. The highly evocative music brings to mind the orchestral music from Italian verismo composer Pietro Mascagni's familiar Cavalleria Rusticana.

Even more ambitious is the ballet La Legende De L'Or (The Legend Of Gold) from Messidor (1897), just more than half an hour long, which displays influences of the German, Richard Wagner, specifically music from his Ring cycle.

Two short preludes from Messidor and Nais Micoulin (1907) make interesting fillers.

Darrell Ang and the excellent Barcelona Symphony give fine and idiomatic performances, for which attention to orchestral detail is not spared.

  • OBSCURE CLASSICS

    BRUNEAU

    L'attaque Du Moulin - Suite/Barcelona Symphony/Darrell Ang/ Naxos 8.573888/ 4.5 Stars

One will be hard-pressed to find better recordings of this obscure but thoroughly worthy music.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'A worthy nod to French opera'. Print Edition | Subscribe