Philippe Jaroussky: Opium (2009)


Listen to this forsomething completely different

We all know what countertenors sing, right? Renaissance and Baroque music with possibly the odd well-meaning excursion into Rossini. But then you hear Philippe Jaroussky with this collection of Belle Époque songs and you realise that, with the right music, a beautiful voice sounds beautiful no matter what period the composers are from. And it’s so lovely to hear him singing in his native French for once. Accompanied only by the brilliant Jérôme Ducros on piano, he can show off all his vocal clarity and sweetness. There’s the odd moment where he seems to be pushing his voice a bit too hard, but it’s rare.

I was particularly taken by the songs by Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) which bookend the album: their eloquence epitomises the mood of dreaminess that characterises most of the melodies chosen here. Having said that, there are scattered moments of playfulness or frenzy: the Sombrero by Cécile Louise Chaminade (1857-1944), for example, or Saint-Saëns’s trembling Songe d’Opium. But, for the most part, this is gentle, tender and swooningly sensual, the kind of album that should ideally be listened to late at night by lamplight with a glass of absinthe.

And, as an aside, Jaroussky has absolutely nailed the art of the cover photo…

Buy the album