Saint François d'Assise
Deuxième Acte/Quatrième Tableau: L'Ange Voyageur
The opening instrumental section on this disc is my favorite of the opera so far: a fast-moving series of sections that sound alternately like Debussy, Schoenberg, birdsong, Bernard Herrmann. The fourth track on the CD sounds like something reminiscent of the famous polychord in Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. I only draw comparisons, it's all Messiaen in the end.
Dawn Upshaw plays the angel to José van Dam's Francis. Considering she is the only female solo voice in the ensemble, when she sings, it cuts through.
I still have several discs of opera to go after this one, but I think I'm warming up to this work as it progresses. It must be a hell of a production to stage. I know it played New York within the last decade. I thought about traveling to see it, but didn't stay on top of the situation.
I read a book of interviews with Messiaen many years ago. It was translated from French, as he almost determinately refused to learn any other language. (I might say the same for myself, but there's no international demand for anything I do.) He said that he considered St. Francis to be the closest to Jesus and divinity, other than Jesus himself. (Paraphrasing.) For that fact, and the legendary sermon to the birds, it makes sense that St. Francis would be the subject of Messiaen's one opera.