Notes and Editorial Reviews
A feisty festival performance that gives due recognition to an operatic giant.
Composed in 1675, Thesee is Lully’s third full-scale tragedie lyrique in collaboration with the librettist Quinault, and presents a typical love tangle: Athenian King Aegee wishes to marry his ward Aegle, who loves the young warrior-hero Thesee. Thesee in turn is loved by the sorceress Medee, who confirms her reputation as one of mythology’s most dangerous characters by subjecting Aegle to various torments, none of which proves successful in dislodging her enemy’s love for Thesee. Medee’s final desperate plan to cause Thesee’s death by convincing Aegee that he is an enemy who needs eliminating also comes to nought when at the last moment the
King recognises Thesee as his long-lost son and relinquishes his own pursuit of Aegle.
The booklet-note makes interesting points about the opera’s allegorical content (recognition of bastard sons was much on Louis XIV’s mind, apparently), but despite some exciting battle music it is in the more intimate scenes, and the depth of individual characters they reveal, that Lully and Quinault really show their genius. Everywhere there are realistic dialogues between characters expressing complex self-contradictory feelings, the most gripping of which comes in Act 4 when Aegle has been forced by Medee to lie to Thesee that she no longer loves him in a tearful pretence which he sees through almost immediately. The gentle ardour of their reconciliation audibly affects even the watching Medee, and the sincerity of the divertissement that follows leaves us in no doubt that this is the opera’s emotional heart, the power of true love its most meaningful message.
This studio recording follows staged performances at the Boston Early Music Festival and is well presented in every aspect. Ellen Hargis makes a suitably fragile and earnest (if slightly mature-sounding) Aegle, Howard Crook as Thesee is a convincing and respectable lover, and Harry van der Kamp subtly captures the comical element in the elderly Aegee. As Medee, Laura Pudwell is impressive and versatile, and there are attractive vocal performances from Amanda Forsythe, Mireille Lebel and Suzie Leblanc. The whole is driven with taste, style and sure dramatic sense by the continuo powerhouse of theorbo-players Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs. Still often underrated, Lully is an operatic giant, and this fine recording makes eloquent proof.
-- Lindsay Kemp, Gramophone [1/2008]
Works on This Recording
Thésée, LWV 51 by Jean-Baptiste Lully
Harry Van der Kamp (Bass),
Ilona Ziesemer-Schröder (Alto),
Howard Crook (Tenor),
Ellen Hargis (Soprano),
Laura Pudwell (Soprano),
Olivier Laquerre (Bass),
Aaron Engebreth (Baritone),
Teresa Wakim (Soprano),
Aaron Sheehan (Tenor),
Yulia Van Doren (Soprano),
Marc Molomot (Tenor),
Marek Rzepka (Bass),
Mireille Lebel (Mezzo Soprano),
Suzie LeBlanc (Soprano),
Amanda Forsythe (Soprano),
Moritz von Cube (Countertenor)
Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra,
Boston Early Music Festival Choir
Written: by 1675; Paris, France
Venue: Broadcast Hall, Bremen Radio, Germany
Length: 173 Minutes 18 Secs.
Notes: Broadcast Hall, Bremen Radio, Germany (09/08/2006 - 09/12/2006)
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