In 1724, Sébastien de Brossard hailed Jean-Baptiste Drouard de Bousset as ‘indisputably the best of our composer-authors’. Although, at the beginning of the 18th century, the Master of Music at the Académies des Sciences et des Inscriptions imposed himself as the unquestionable leader of the genre, his 875 airs sérieux are little known nowadays and deserve to be brought back into the light. Such is the desire of Elizabeth Dobbin and the ensemble Le Jardin Secret, who recreate with artistry and intelligence the ‘noble, pleasant and natural’ songs of the composer, described by Titon du Tillet in his Parnasse françois (1732). Reflecting the traditions of the 17th and 18th centuries, the musicians have included improvised passages in their performance of these airs and, in particular, chosen to accompany the voice with two theorbos and viola da gamba, instruments that Bousset owned when he died.
Director Mauro Bolognini inserts this story in Fascist Italy, with careful attention to details. The couple formed by Matteo Zannoni (Bruno Cirino) and Libera Valente (Cardinale) can't bear fascism. They move constantly between cities, settling down in Modena, where Libera quickly collides with the fascist political commissar Franco Testa (Philippe Leroy). Libera has to suffer awful moments due to her attachment to the resistance, and to the political and sexual harassment from Testa.
The fact that Durante never composed for the stage brought him an exaggerated reputation as a composer of sacred music. Although one of the best church composers of his style and period, he is now considered inferior to both Leonardo Leo and Alessandro Scarlatti, and seems to have founded the sentimental school of Italian church music. This type of music is characteristic of Durante as a man; intellectually uncultured, but sincerely devout. Hasse protested against Durante's being described as the greatest harmonist of Italy, a title which he ascribed to Alessandro Scarlatti.