- L' Étoile du Nord, comic opera in 3 acts: Overture
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The most popular opera composer of the mid-19th century was Giacomo Meyerbeer, whose spectacular stage works dominated the music establishment in Paris and influenced composers across Europe. Yet despite the survival of his operas well into the 20th century, very little of Meyerbeer is played today due to the high costs of mounting such elaborate productions, and the general neglect that befell his music in the modern era. This Naxos disc by Darrell Ang and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra presents what might be called Meyerbeer's greatest hits, or more accurately, the most popular excerpts that were once regular fare on concert programs, which are now only occasionally taken out of mothballs. The best-known selection is still the Coronation March from "Le prophète" (track 17), followed by the overtures to "Robert le diable," "Les Huguenots," and "L'Africaine," though the entr'actes and other selections on this CD are quite obscure to all except dedicated students of French opera. Because Meyerbeer's music was most effective in the theater, that is really where it has the best chance of revival. But heard on disc, away from the pomp and pageantry, it has a limited appeal, and despite the energetic performances presented here, the music is most interesting as a historical artifact.