Die Zauberflöte with Léopold Simoneau
Foto: ORFEO InternationalSome operatic roles can be approached in very different ways, even though the vocal difficulties associated with them remain the same. The part of Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, for example, can be sung by an Italian tenore di grazia but also by a young Heldentenor or even by a lieder singer with a sufficiently powerful voice. But anyone who heard the French Canadian tenor Léopold Simoneau in the part or who is familiar with his recording from the 1959 Salzburg Festival (Orfeo C 455972 I) will confirm that his interpretation is unique in terms not only of his ability to invest each note with the most ingratiating tone but also of the openness of his vowels and subtlety of his phrasing. Simoneau had made his Salzburg Festival début three years previously in 1956 – the bicentenary of the composer’s birth – when he had appeared as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni under Dimitri Mitropoulos and as the tenor soloist in Berlioz’s Grande messe des morts, also under Mitropoulos (Orfeo C 457971 B). At a time when the practices that are nowadays associated with the early music movement were still in their infancy, Simoneau was ideally placed to do justice to the stylistic demands of the Baroque and Classical periods, a point evident from his Salzburg recital of 14 August 1959 (Orfeo C 460971 B), which he opened with songs and arias by Haydn, Handel and Rameau. The second half of the programme was given over to mélodies by Henri Duparc and Gabriel Fauré, revealing that Simoneau – who had been a member of the Opéra-Comique since 1947 – was also in a class of his own in the French repertory of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His elegance and mastery of the subtlest nuances of tenor singing will be hard to surpass.
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