- Dom Sébastien, roi du Portugal, opera: Seul sur la terre... Ange céleste
The majority of singers who have released recitals of this kind (and The French Collection is indeed a recital, recorded in a single day in 2014, not a collection of previously recorded material) are French, but there's a long tradition of non-French singers who have mastered the subtle art of 19th century French opera, so different from the requirements of Wagnerian heroics or Italian melodic display. Polish tenor Piotr Beczala is the latest entrant in the tradition, and though he's new to the music -- mostly he has specialized in Russian and Italian music -- the results are impressive. In fact he's weakest in the Frenchified Italian arias by Verdi and Donizetti: there's nothing to object to in his readings, but little that stands out. With the French material the situation is something else again. Sample the second part of the number from "La dame blanche" by the under-heard François-Adrien Boieldieu, where Beczala gets the chance to display a truly awesome pianissimo. Another major strength is Berlioz, where he has the relaxed control over the long line without which the music fatally bogs down. Really throughout Beczala is both dramatically and vocally convincing, and he gets exciting support from the Orchestre de L'Opéra National de Lyon under Alain Altinoglu, sounding great in an auditorium in its home city. A superior recording of its type.