Tenor Bryan Hymel, a 35-year-old New Orleans native, has risen to the highest ranks in opera, singing lead roles now for major U.S. and European companies. He’s found his niche in French opera’s heroic tenors, difficult roles requiring agility, stamina, lyricism and stellar high notes.
Hymel brings all these attributes to his first recital disc, , “Heroique,” offering 11 demanding arias by nine composers, either French-born or writing in French. The arias are in chronological order, beginning with “Asile héréditaire,” the spectacular 13-minute showpiece from Rossini’s “Guillaume Tell” that culminates in a rousing call to arms. It’s full of trumpeted high Cs, the last of which seems to go on forever in Hymel’s hefty, bright tone, produced without strain.
There are pieces by Gounod, Meyerbeer and Massenet, as well as Berlioz, whose “Inutiles regrets” from “Les Troyens” recalls Hymel’s star-making appearances in that opera for Covent Garden and the Met. He displays impressive quiet singing in Aeneas’ lament at leaving Dido, which turns into an impassioned determination to see her again.
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Beautifully sung French and attention to characterization enhances Hymel’s clear, confident vocalism. Conductor Emmanuel Villaume and the Prague Philharmonia supply vivid support in the energetic passages but take most of the introspective sections at enervating tempos. The sound engineers give Hymel’s voice prominence but often separate it from the orchestra in an unnatural acoustic.
But minor flaws shouldn’t deter opera fans from experiencing the talents of this exciting singer, who seems destined to make operatic history.
Correspondent Roy C. Dicks
Heroique – French Opera Arias