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Lully: Psyche / O'Dette, Stubbs, Sampson, Gauvin, Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra

Release Date: 07/29/2008 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777367-2   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Jean-Baptiste Lully
Performer:  Olivier LaquerreAaron SheehanColin BalzerCarolyn Sampson,   ... 
Conductor:  Paul O'DetteStephen Stubbs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Early Music Festival OrchestraBoston Early Music Festival Choir
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 54 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If you fight it, you lose; if you just sit back and listen for six minutes short of three hours, you'll experience the aural equivalent of a walk through exquisitely manicured gardens--perhaps too perfectly manicured--on a fine spring day. Only if you're hoping for the type of drama and plot normally associated with opera will you be disappointed. Louis XIV himself chose the subject matter: Psyché, the most beautiful woman in the world, meets with the jealousy of Venus, who sends her son Cupid (Amour) to earth to give Psyché her comeuppance: once she sees him in his heavenly form, she must cease being human.

Along the way we meet Vulcain, Venus' irritated husband,
Read more Zéphire, god of the winds, Aglaure, Psyché's sister, and the King, Psyché's father. There is comedy, much dancing, and plenty of room for those special recits-into-arioso-into-arias that Lully excelled in, with brilliant, shiny orchestration throughout. Near the start of Act 2, a magnificent palace is being built for Psyché at Amour's behest; Lully uses chains as percussion and turns the scene into a beautiful, delicate version of Nibelheim or Siegfried's Forging Song, with the Forgers striking in rhythm.

At an earlier point, in the first act, Psyché believes that she is to be sacrificed (a ploy of Venus); the news is met with laments--in Italian--that are simply stunning. The dark rumblings of Hell (Act 4) are very impressive; Bacchus' song, with prominent guitar (Act 5), is especially charming. There are surprises galore, and around each corner is something more lush than before. As designed, it is an exquisite piece of artificiality.

Musical directors Stephen Stubbs and Paul O'Dette have reconstructed the score from several sources, clearly with an ear to good tunes, vigor, and allure. The exciting yet meticulous playing by the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, on period instruments (of course), is a pleasure to listen to, with the precise attack by the strings filled with drama, the woodwinds and brass--plenty of them--sharply delineated, and the percussion snappy. The continuo players, on harpsichords, theorbo, guitar, and viola da gamba, have much to do and do it superbly.

The singing is marvelous as well. Carolyn Sampson's Psyché is lovely and makes dramatic sense; it's not her fault she's so beautiful, and you feel for her while reveling in Sampson's untainted tone. Karina Gauvin's Venus is the perfect foil--imposing and articulately nasty, with a voice of many colors. Colin Blazer's Vulcain is a good picture of an overworked god; Jason McStoots' Zéphire entertains. Amanda Forsythe as Aglaure is sympathetic to her sister Psyché, but the same soprano's portrayal of a nymph in Act 2 is even more beautiful. Olivier Laquerre lends a nice, dark tone to the King. The remainder of the large cast is excellent. The last 20-or-so minutes of the opera are taken up with a pageant of gods, with one dance after another. My feeling was that enough was enough, but some people can't get too much of this whipped cream. At any rate, this is a fascinating work, handsomely performed.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Psyché, LWV 45 by Jean-Baptiste Lully
Performer:  Olivier Laquerre (Bass), Aaron Sheehan (Tenor), Colin Balzer (Tenor),
Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), Mireille Lebel (Mezzo Soprano), Aaron Engebreth (Baritone),
José Lemos (Countertenor), Matthew Shaw (Baritone), Amanda Forsythe (Soprano),
Ricard Bordas (Countertenor), Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Jason McStoots (Tenor),
Yulia Van Doren (Soprano), Teresa Wakim (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul O'Dette,  Stephen Stubbs
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra,  Boston Early Music Festival Choir
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1671; France 

Sound Samples

Psyche: Prologue: Overture
Psyche: Prologue: Recitative: Ce n'est plus le temps de la Guerre (Flore, Chorus of all the Deities of the Earth and the Waters)
Psyche: Prologue: Dialogue: Rendez-vous, Beautez cruelles (Vertumne, Palemon)
Psyche: Prologue: Menuet: Dans le bel age (Flore)
Psyche: Prologue: Nous goutons une Paix profonde (Chorus of all the Deities of the Earth and the Waters)
Psyche: Prologue: Pourquoy du Ciel m'obliger a descendre? (Venus)
Psyche: Prologue: Symphony
Psyche: Prologue: Mon Fils, si tu plains mes mal-heurs (Venus)
Psyche: Prologue: Entra'acte (Overture)
Psyche: Act I Scene 1: Enfin ma Soeur, le Ciel est appaise (Aglaure, Cidippe)
Psyche: Act I Scene 1: Tout succede a nos desir (Cidippe, Aglaure)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Ah! Princesse! (Lychas, Aglaure, Cidippe)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Pleurons, pleurons; en de is grands mal-heurs (Lychas, Aglaure, Cidippe)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Italian Lament
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Deh, piangete al pianto mio (Grieving Woman, First Grieving Man, Second Grieving Man)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Rispondete a miei lamenti (Grieving Woman)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Com' esser puo fra voi, o numi eterni (Second Grieving Man)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Nume fiero (First Grieving Man, Second Grieving Man)
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Air
Psyche: Act I Scene 2: Ahi ch'indarno si torda (Grieving Woman, First Grieving Man, Second Grieving Man)
Psyche: Act I Scene 3: vient, a la voir je tremble (Aglaure, Cidippe, )
Psyche: Act I Scene 4: Seigneur, vous soupirez vous-mesme? (, The King)
Psyche: Act I Scene 4: Entr'acte: Air
Psyche: Act II Scene 1: Cyclops, achevez ce superbe Palais (Vulcain)
Psyche: Act II Scene 2: Pressez-vous ce Travail que l'Amour vous demande? (Zephire, Vulcain)
Psyche: Act II Scene 2: Depeschez preparez ces lieux (Vulcain)
Psyche: Act II Scene 2: Servez bien un Dieu si Charmant (Vulcain)
Psyche: Act II Scene 3: Quoy, vous vous employez pour le fiere (Venus, Vulcain)
Psyche: Act II Scene 3: Prelude
Psyche: Act II Scene 4: Ou suis-je? ()
Psyche: Act II Scene 5: Quels agreable sons ont frappe mes oreilles? (, Nymph, Zephyr, 2 Zephyr, L'Amour)
Psyche: Act II Scene 6: Et bien, , des cruautez du Sort (L'Amour, )
Psyche: Act II Scene 6: Aimable Jeunesse (First Nymph, Second and Third Nymphs)
Psyche: Act II Scene 6: L'Amour a des charmes (First Nymph, Second and Third Nymphs)
Psyche: Act II Scene 6: Entr'acte: Air
Psyche: Act III: Ritournelle
Psyche: Act III Scene 1: Pompe que ce Palais de tous costez etale (Venus)
Psyche: Act III Scene 2: Que fais-ful montre toy (Venus, )
Psyche: Act III Scene 3: A la fin je vay voir mon destin eclaircy (, L'Amour)
Psyche: Act III Scene 4: Arrestez, cher Amant, aou fuiez-vous si viste? ()
Psyche: Act III Scene 5: Ah! Nymphe, venez-vous soulager mes ennuis? (, Venus)
Psyche: Act III Scene 6: Vous m'abandonnez-donc, cruel and cher Amant? ()
Psyche: Act III Scene 7: Arreste, c'est trop tost renoncer a l'espoir (The River, )
Psyche: Act III Scene 7: Entr'acte: Air

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