Bryan Hymel: Héroïque
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Bryan Hymel: "Héroïque"

spacer Prague Philharmonia and Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno, Villaume. Texts and translations. Warner Classics 0825646-179503

Lyric Hero

Bryan Hymel offers imaginative, refined performances — and an essentially lyric approach — in his new recording of French grand opera arias.


Bryan Hymel’s debut solo recording of French grand opera arias is a perfect match of artist and repertoire. A lot of the buzz about Hymel is “high C this” and “high C that.” Even the album’s press release boasts the disc’s total tally of top Cs, C-sharps and Ds, although Hymel is much more of an artist than this type of PR would indicate. The showpiece aria, Arnold’s scene from Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, is placed first, and Hymel’s impassioned phrasing enlivens a thoughtfully paced recitative, while he keeps the line of the aria lean from the smooth enticement of the opening phrase, “Asile héréditaire” , balancing moods of nostalgia and sorrow. The cabaletta, “Amis, secondez ma vengeance,” paints rousing vengeance with difficult climbing chromatic lines, which Hymel sings easily, finishing with a deft pronunciation of “armes” on the final top C

Material from repertoire recorded by the great French tenor Georges Thill (1897–1984) — selections by Alfred Bruneau and Henri Rabaud, as well as from Sigurd, Ernest Reyer’s Nibelungen opera — showcases Hymel’s suave timbre, while a thrilling reading of the old warhorse “Inspirez-moi, race divine!” from Gounod’s Reine de Saba reveals warmth and amplitude without heaviness . Hymel understands instinctively how vowel colors knit the vocal line, and he narrows the sound and quickens his vibrato to convey the despair of “Adieu donc, vains objets,” from Massenet’s Hérodiade , and Vasco da Gama’s desperation in the cabaletta to Meyerbeer’s “O paradis,” from L’Africaine .

Verdi’s French roles could be a splendid niche for Hymel. In Henri’s scene from Les Vêpres Siciliennes, he shows command with incisive declamation for the recitative a­­nd allows a handsome expansion and contraction of phrases in the aria, “O jour de peine et de souffrance,” with its huge high D-flat . “Je veux encore entendre ta voix,” from Jérusalem, Verdi’s French-language adaptation of his Lombardi, is an attractive novelty, and Hymel’s buoyancy and ease are captivating. 

But it’s the two Berlioz selections, capping Emmanuel Villaume’s stunning work with the Prague Philharmonia throughout the disc, that most fully show Hymel’s relaxed command. After all, it was the tenor’s sensational 2012 Covent Garden appearances as Énée in Les Troyens, replacing Jonas Kaufmann, that brought him into the international spotlight; his stepping in for Marcello Giordani in the same role at the Met six months later confirmed his stature. 

Hymel’s sophisticated sense of color and drama detail Énée’s emotional turmoil in the lengthy Act V “Inutiles regrets” . Matching the radiant clarity of the orchestral colors with a rich, gleaming sound that never turns opaque, Hymel snaps Énée’s heroic words as he remembers his destiny but turns intensely inward in contemplation of the farewell conversation he must have with Didon. In “Nature immense” , from La Damnation de Faust, Hymel maintains the intensity of Berlioz’s long, emotionally weighted lines with full, dramatic sound and an innate sense of the flow and inner rhythm of the language as it stretches out over the composer’s slowly evolving harmonic unpinning. spacer 


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