Originating by way of an Aix-En-Provence Festival staging, William Christie and his Arts Florissants bring dramatic flair and musical panache to Mozart's great late Singspiel in equal measure. To begin with, there's a dream cast led by the alluring pairing of Hans Peter Blochwitz as Tamino and Rosa Mannion as Pamina. Anton Scharinger makes for an earthy Papageno, Reinhard Hagen is a commanding Sarastro, whilst Natalie Dessay's input as Queen of the Night comes over in both her showpiece arias as steadfast and electrifying. The casting in depth continues: rare is a Magic Flute that can boast singers of the calibre of Willard White and Linda Kitchen in the relatively small roles of Speaker and Papagena. Then, the uniformly warm vocal blend is homogeneously matched, note for note, with the gut strings and less aggressive winds of Les Arts Florissants. Not that there's anything limp or lacklustre about Christie's brisk tempi; whilst sharp editing maintains the theatrical urgency. The melliflously played "magic" flute and exact keyed glockenspiel input for Papageno's bells are further examples of the care which has gone into this state of the art "authentic" interpretation. With a work like The Magic Flute, recorded choices are voluminous. Neville Marriner with his Academy of St Martins-in-the-Fields on Phillips puts in a brave showing, but William Christie maybe wins out in a thorough interpretation which simultaneously celebrates the opera's joy and mystery. –Duncan Hadfield
It was only a matter of time before William Christie got around to recording Mozart's delightful 1782 singspiel, and the results are very happy indeed. Period instruments are just right for the raucous "Turkish" music Mozart composed for Entführung, and they go very nicely with the light voices Christie has chosen as well. Most successful is the Belmonte of tenor Ian Bostridge, already famous for his lieder singing.
While Freemasonry's secrecy has always aroused distrust, its enlightened principles and belief in virtue, liberty, fraternity, and equality have attracted large numbers of intellectuals and artists; one of its most famous adherents was Mozart. However, his opera The Magic Flute was not the first to be inspired by its teachings but was preceded in 1749 by Rameau's Zoroastre. Its initial reception was so cool that Rameau and his librettist, Louis de Cahusac (a prominent Mason) undertook extensive revisions. The new version was produced–by coincidence or fate?–in 1756, the year of Mozart's birth, and became a great success.
The first collaboration ever between conductor William Christie and director Luc Bondy with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, this production of Hercules has been a major event. Hercules returns from the war with Iole, a princess he fell in love with. Mad with jealousy, Déjanire, his wife, ends up totally insane after poisoning her husband. Half theatrical performance, half secular oratorio, Hercules wasn’t originally meant to be performed in front of an audience. Luc Bondy chose to show the dramatis personae as ordinary people, victims of their passions. The superb Chorus of the Arts Florissants, both mediator and prosecutor, is the main witness of this tragedy of women’s jealousy.
Inspired by a fable by La Fontaine, Rameau produced perhaps his most brilliant music for his penultimate great work, blending reality and the surreal on several levels. This passionate new production by José Montalvo stunningly choreographed by Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu, sets new standards in entertainment, charm and ingenuity. The sharp and spectacular multimedia staging does full justice to Rameau's dazzling burlesque, confirming Olivier Rouvière's statement that ‘Les Paladins' is the last laugh of a witty 77-year old composer’. Recorded live in 2004 at the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet in true surround sound, both the virtuoso cast and Les Arts Florissants are in top form, clearly enjoying themselves in the masterful hands of William Christie.
"Described as an Opera-Ballet in four Acts, Les Indes Galantes was Rameau's biggest stage success in his own lifetime, and one can understand why from this spectacular production, staged at the Paris Opéra in 2004. The director, Andrei Serban, presents the piece with the sort of lavish effects and movement that would have delighted 18th-century audiences…Outstanding among the soloists are Nathan Berg as Huascar…Anna Maria Panzarella as Emilie and Paul Agnew as Valere, with Joao Fernandez memorably in drag as Bellone. The final curtain brings an exuberant encore after the credits, with Christie hilariously joining in the dance.– The Penguin Guide
"It's possible to recreate everything about an eighteenth century opera except the audience,’ says director Robert Carsen in a documentary included with this DVD. ‘My work is for modern audiences.’ And how…In this brilliant production, Carsen goes to the heart of the drama…Michael Levine's stylised, bold designs allow the story to unfold with gripping clarity and, remarkably, some of the spectacular set-pieces (especially the storm in Act III) work even better on DVD than in the theatre itself. Barbara Bonney is vocally and dramatically stunning as Alphise…Conductor William Christie responds to Rameau's varied and colourful score with élan, and Édouard Lock's choreography – a version of classical ballet deconstructed and then pumped with amphetamines – is breathtaking."– Classic fM - DVD Best Buy
The libretto, written by Cardinal Giulio Rospigliosi (the future Pope Clement IX), tells the story of saintly sacrifice: on his wedding night Alessio departs alone for the Holy Land in search of sanctity. Years later he returns unrecognised as a beggar to his family home, where his father, mother and wife still mourn him. A demon tempts Alessio to reveal his true identity and so end his family’s grief, but an angel keeps him on the sacred path. The dying Alessio leaves a letter explaining the truth and an angelic chorus bids his family to rejoice rather than mourn, since he has been received into heaven. This strange, solemn and elevated story is leavened with comic scenes in the commedia dell’arte vein, adding to the rich musico-dramatic variety of the entire opera.