CPO follows its stellar releases of Conradi's Ariadne and Lully's Thésée by the Boston Early Music Festival with an equally extraordinary performance of Lully's Psyché. These are works that have had limited exposure and are known far better by reputation than by performances or recordings.
The pastoral tragedy Acis et Galatée was Lully's last finished work, a three-act extravaganza complete with an opening Prologue, a closing Passacaglia, and assorted dances interspersed throughout. In the right performance, it is at once an inspiring work, a relaxing work, and even an entertaining work and this performance by the Choeurs des Musiciens du Louvre led by Marc Minkowski is surely the right performance.
This opera concerns Perseus, his love for Andromeda, and his killing of the snake-headed gorgon Medusa. Jean-Baptiste Lully clearly meant the heroic Perseus to stand for Louis XIV, who commissioned the work. Indeed, while Persee is not on stage all the time, he is the central character of this lengthy, ceremonial, beautifully scored work. Those who love the peculiar formalities of French Baroque opera will need no coaxing.
Jean-Baptiste Lully's tragédie en musique Persée was first performed in 1682 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris, though this revival by Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel celebrates a much later performance given at L'Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles on May 16, 1770. Most period performances are typically derived from the instrumentation and practices of a specific era, yet Lully's period is not re-created here, nor the sound of the court opera of Louis XIV, but instead, an updated Persée that was presented for the nuptials of the future Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, some 88 years later.
Founded in 1991 by Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques are now internationally recognised for their excellence in the Baroque repertoire and their latest recordings in the genre, for Aparté, have earned them international acclaim. After the huge success of 'Bellérophon', they now present Lully's 'Phaéton', recorded at the Salle Pleyel in Paris in October 2012. The critics commented on the admirable clarity and precision of the performance, the perfection of the choruses, sung with veracity by the Namur Chamber Choir, and an ideal cast.
Lully's tragedie en musique, Atys, with a text by his favored librettist, Philippe Quinault, was one of his greatest operatic successes and was significant for setting a new standard for a distinctively French approach to opera. While Lully's operas have not entered the repertoire, they have fared well on record thanks to the efforts of some top-notch early music ensembles, and this 2010 performance of Atys featuring Hugo Reyne leading La Simphonie du Marais and Le Choeur du Marais is a superb addition to the composer's discography.
This superb recording of the compositions of Lully for the court of Louis XIV is almost perfect in delivery; evoking the sophistication, wit, grandeur, humor that would be required to entertain the most demanding of monarchs amidst the most sophisticated court in Europe. The character of Lully is fascinating. Lully was an Italian actor, dancer and musician who becomes the central creative force in music theatre in the court of the Sun King. However it is the flawless music that is contained in this recording that should be heard. With use of period instruments William Christie and Les Arts Florissants paint a range of compositions from various operas and periods in Lully's career in the court of the Sun King.
Following on acclaimed releases of Bellerophon and Phaeton, Christophe Rousset continues his revival of Lully's tragedies lyriques for the Aparte label with Amadis. One of the composer's finest scores, Amadis is a masterpiece of French Baroque music. It was Louis XIV himself who asked Lully and his librettist Quinault to base an opera on Montalvo's Amadis de Gaula. Avoiding the usual mythological subjects gave the composer and librettist an opportunity to expand the scope of the tragedie lyrique genre.
The first volume of Tempesta di Mare's series on Chandos, Comédie et Tragédie, offers period-style performances of orchestral music by Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Féry Rebel, and Marin Marais. The orchestral suites drawn from Lully's music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme, Rebel's symphonie nouvelle Les élémens, and Marais' suite from the tragédie en musique Alcyone give a taste of theater music in the court of Louis XIV and Louis XV, and these pieces show how inventive composers were with instrumentation and their combinations of dances with dramatic scene painting. Tempesta di Mare, which is also known as the Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, gives bright and energetic performances, and the musicians have a fine sense of the swung rhythms, distinctive tone colors, and lively ornamentation in French Baroque music. The recording is clear and well-balanced, though the percussion in Lully's March for the Turkish Ceremony (track 4) is a bit startling, and the dissonant opening of Rebel's Le Chaos (track 13) has its own shock value. Highly recommended.
For any enthusiast of Baroque music, the production of Lully's Armide at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, directed by William Christie and staged by Robert Carsen, was an exceptional event. The last and most successful collaboration between Lully and his librettist Quinault, Armide is the ideal of the genre as desired by Louis XIV: a tragic opera that achieves the perfect fusion of music, song and dance. William Christie leads the orchestra and chorus of Les Arts Florissants and a dazzling cast. Stephanie D’Oustrac is the imperious sorceress Armida, overcome by the violence of a forbidden passion.