Massenet: Esclarmonde

Massenet's most ambitious composition, the fairytale opera Esclarmonde was first performed on May 15, 1889 by the Opera Comique.

To this day it remains one of the most challenging roles for soprano in the repertoire, a role that needs a Joan Sutherland to do it complete justice due to the incredibly high tessitura contrasted with  a dense orchestral fabric that said soprano is expected to penetrate and soar over.  Fortunately Dame Joan left behind a number of recordings of this role, including the sumptuous Decca studio recording pictured above.  

It's a mystical confection of Byzantine magic, knights in shining armor, long love duets and offstage choruses. You can hear an extended excerpt below from Act IV, it's very atmospheric and well worth a listen. Enjoy.