Cher Public

What Hervieux

hervieux_amazonReviewing a CD of someone you have never heard live is always a dicey proposition. As we all know, a voice sounds very different in a big hall than it does up-close and personal.

So if Marc Hervieux is your favorite new tenor, please don’t put me in the “crosshairs” just yet. I freely admit I have yet to hear him live. 

Mr. Herviex is French-Canadian and according to the insert his success almost sounds like a fairy tale. A “late bloomer” who became a successful pop star, he then crossed-over into opera with ease because, “unlike the recent crop of tenors who are pre-packaged for mass-market appeal, Hervieux has a true depth of talent that rivals that of any of the great opera stars on the world stage today.” (Oh, really?) There are quotes praising his “thrilling and absolutely first class” performances, and “his brilliant top voice.” He has evidently sung with Mehta in Israel, Gergiev in Russia, been a principal artist at the Met since 2006, and performed opposite Renée Fleming, Bryn Terfel, and Anna Netrebko.

Since I knew nothing about Marc Hervieux, I went to the Met Archive to see what he had sung there. No matter how I searched, his name never popped up. I then checked with friends who work at the Met, and they remembered him as a cover, but were unsure whether or not he had actually gone on, and you only show up in the Met Archive if you actually sing a performance. Digging a little further, I found a biography on his agent’s website, where it states that he was “on call” as Cassio at the Met.

That same biography describes a career that got off to big start singing lyric roles like Des Grieux, Hoffmann, Romeo, Faust, Rodolfo, Alredo, etc. More recent appearances include dramatic roles like Cavaradossi, and Canio. That would explain this CD; a lyric tenor doing what all lyric tenors do these days, trying to become a dramatic tenor.

In fact, the CD insert lays it out for you. It state that Hervieux “has the voice of a lyric tenor but, like Jussi Bjoerling, Giuseppe Di Stefano, Luciano Pavarotti, and some others of his illustrious predecessors, he is able successfully to sing tenore spinto. This is because of the relatively dark color of his vocal timbre, the richness of his medium [?], and especially his solid breath control.” That is all well and good if it were true. But on this new CD, Mr. Hervieux sounds taxed to the max by the demands of the spinto repertoire.

There is undeniably a voice here, possibly an important one, but at the moment it is all over the place. A warm, generous, middle voice gives way to a throaty, nasalized passaggio and strangulated top. There are indeed echoes of great tenors from the past in Mr. Hervieux’s singing. Unfortunately those echoes are from their declining years. Spread, effortful, colorless top notes remind you of late Di Stefano. He lunges and hooks all over the place like Carreras did towards the end, and he exhibits a marked tendency to drive the pitch sharp as Mr. Domingo has done for the better part of two decades. (And before I am disemboweled, I am talking about the later years of these great singers, not their prime.)

The solid breath control mentioned in the liner notes is nowhere in evidence. Phrase after phrase either fizzles or gets cut short because the singer runs out of air. His Italian sounds strange and unidiomatic. (Example, the word “mia” should have the accent on the first syllable (“MI-a”), not the second (“mi-A”). A phrase here and a high note there offer a glimpse of what the voice could be but isn’t.

I don’t know how much to blame conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Aria after aria sluggishly stumbles by with no thought to musical shape or forward motion. Things do not improve in the three opera intermezzi that pad this already short– approximately 54 minute — program.  Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic could make magic of the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana at a plodding tempo, but Nezet-Sequin and the Orchestre Metropolitain do not.

To sum up: Buy the new Jonas Kauffman German Opera Arias CD instead.

  • Reminds me a bit of a young Cura, but with a less distinct timbre:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQNtEMzPOGU

    Why we haven’t heard of him…all France and Canada:
    http://www.operabase.com/listart.cgi?name=Marc+Hervieux&loose=E&acts=+Schedule+

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    I never heard of him either and was surprised to see this combo on a respected by relatively unknown Canadian record label. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s probably one of those vanity/promotional recordings heavily funded by private money. The MET orchestra is not a pickup group from Bratislava. I wonder who’s behind this enterprise and who the patron might be.

    • pavel

      I don’t think the Met Orchestra has anything to do with this recording. L’Orchestre Métropolitain is a Montreal group.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        oops! My bad. Very bad. (Note to self: don’t do that again!)

    • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

      Shades of Barry Morell, bless him, and the sainted Florence Foster Katherine Jenkins, and the many others who felt the industry was passing them by. Eleanor Steber had her St/And label, and there were all those composers who felt the only way they could be heard was on CRI. Our lives are richer for all of them, if not perhaps in the way they hoped.

      • BETSY_ANN_BOBOLINK

        Oh, and Jerry Hadley. Didn’t he help finance that series of operetta discs? And we know where that led. Visionaries and fools, God bless us all.

  • MontyNostry

    Is there anything in French on the album? Le Cid, or something like that?

    Talking of Canadian-produced CDs, has anyone heard Sondra R’s new Verdi album?

    • WindyCityOperaman

      I received Sondra’s album yesterday, and I think it points up a lot of strengths you don’t hear in her live performances. Backed up by “Philharmonia of Russia” on the non-mainstream Delos label, it does have the taste of a “vanity” project, like Msr. Hervieux’s. There’s some reverb in the mix but it doesn’t get in the way. SR performs most of the familiar Verdi arias in context (i.e., includes the choruses in Ernani, Forza and Vespri arias, but sidesteps the Inez in the Trovatore aria), “Corsaro” being the only rarity. The phrasing is very musical, intonation is for the most part good, she does some pianisimi (but I don’t care for her “tapering” mezzo-forte to piano approach -- it doesn’t sound very secure) and does not avoid trills (start slow to very rapid, and once there disappears), and I was surprised to hear a strong top e-flat at the end of “Bolero”. If you dig out your old Caballe or Milanov recordings she comes up short. But if you compare her to anything contemporary (Dessi’s recent CD or anyone else in the Euro-Polygram group . . . Trebs, Angela, Renee) Sondra holds her own. It’s worth a listen.

  • alfred

    Could not agree more with Wendy. Hervieux has had a mostly local, Canadian career, heavily supported by Jacqueline Desmarais -- the lady who paid for the new Carmen at the Met, also conducted by her favorite conductor. She’s also funded countless ventures of her favorite tenor.

    There is no shortage of vocal talent in Canada, but Hervieux is made up and is reputed to be the real thing among the very averagely educated public accross the border. Too bad!

  • Signor Bruschino

    i just love yannick’s shit eating grin on the cd cover… i heart him

  • Nemorinopr

    Sorry, Miss Escambia, but in Spanish and Italian, the word MIA is always accentuated in the first syllable:
    MÍa.
    Accent on the last syllable would sound mi Á. You add the letter U at the end and we have a MI AU…..

    • This was my editing error. I’ve changed the wording now to reflect Wendy’s intention, i.e., that Hervieux wrongly accents on the final syllable.

      • Nemorinopr

        Thanks, Cieca.

  • rysanekfreak

    It is so unlike me to complain, but could someone have mentioned the names of the arias he sings? Or at least the operas they come from? I looked at the amazon.com link, and they don’t give the names of any of the arias or operas either.

    • Turandot Puccini, Giacomo

      1 Non piangere, Liù! 2:39
      2 Nessun dorma 3:08

      Cavalleria Rusticana Mascagni, Pietro

      3 Mamma, quel vino e generoso 4:28
      4 Intermezzo 3:44

      Tosca Puccini, Giacomo

      5 Recondita armonia 2:49
      6 E lucevan le stelle 3:41

      Manon Lescaut Puccini, Giacomo

      7 Intermezzo 5:21

      L’arlesiana Cilea, Francisco

      8 E la solita storia del pastore 4:40

      Pagliacci Leoncavallo, Ruggero

      9 Vesti la giubba 3:46

      La Bohème Puccini, Giacomo

      10 Che gelida manina 4:54

      La Traviata Verdi, Giuseppe

      11 Lunge da lei per me… De’ miei bollenti spiriti 3:48

      12 Preludio sinfonico Puccini, Giacomo 9:32

      • manou

        I always knew you were on first name terms with all these guys.

      • rysanekfreak

        Thanks for the info. I was going to suggest a contest where we predict what we think the arias are. I would have guessed Nessun dorma for sure. And the Boheme. But I would have lost because I would have thought La donna e mobile.

  • manou

    Oops -- just discovered I made a booboo. Sorry!

  • papopera

    Marc Hervieux has no career of international status. A local Québec “star” tenor, seems to spend -- or loose -- most of his time appearing on corny local TV talk shows and singing pop songs. Sings in Québec, Calgary, Edmonton.. That CD of his does not impress me, always the same tenor routine.
    (L’Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal (Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra) has nothing to do with the Met, it is Montréal’s second symphony orchestra.)

  • Cassandra

    Who?