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Flavio Testi Saül

Richard Rittelmann (Baryton), Thierry Felix (Baryton), Vincent le Texier (Baryton), Renaud Delaigue (Basse), Annie Vavrille (Mezzo Soprano), Hanna Schaer (Mezzo Soprano) Daniel Galvez-Vallejo (Ténor) solistes de la Maitrise de Radio France; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Massimo Zanetti

NAIVE: V4988

This is a great discovery! Flavio Testi (b. 1923) based his Saül on André Gide's play (1898). Testi concentrates on the heart of the drama, on the distress, dreams and obsessions of the characters.

In Testi's reduction of play to libretto we enter a world of 'secrets, taboos and frustrations verging on instability and perversity' (F-G Tual) with Saül's latent homosexuality overt. There is a helpful analysis of the moving scene in which David tries to comfort Saül. Of the several dramatic scenes those involving the Witch of Endor and child Demons from the supernatural world are memorable. Testi's Saül is a far cry from the more chaste versions of Handel and Charpentier (q.v. reviews of David & Jonathas).

The music is spare and concentrated, leaving the text clear and central, ideal for home listening. Composed 1991, this world premiere concert performance (Radio France, 2003) was long overdue, but the composer is well served by this account of what seems like a masterpiece. A prolific composer, one to explore; but there is little to find about him surfing the Net, not even a photo!

This is another lavish production from naive/Radio France, with an 82 page French/English booklet containing full texts. Essential for contemporary opera collectors.

See detailed review by John Story

© Peter Grahame Woolf