Notes and Editorial Reviews
Also available on Blu-ray
William Christie, cond; Bernard Richter (
); Anna Reinhold (
); Elodie formard (
); Bernard Deletré (
class="ARIAL12">); Stéphanie d’Oustrac (
); Emmanuelle de Negri (
); Nicolas Rivenq (
); Les Arts Florissants
FRA MUSICA 6 (2 DVDs: 195:00) Live: 2011
Here’s an interesting, creative treatment of
, which I’ve watched through twice with much pleasure. But if I’d been hasty and seen only the Prolog, I would have thought it was nothing more than Baroque
. I can hear just how such a stage director might address the composer and librettist of
“No, no, no, Mr. Lully, Mr. Quinault, sweethearts! That will never work! Your Prolog uses mythological figures to set up the tragedy to follow, but it’s all so static! It just doesn’t
to me. I know: I’ll add a mimed director on stage in period costume, who will stand out in front of all your characters and move them around the stage while they sing, sometimes all the way back, then right back to the same place they started—not to make things better understood, but just to, you know, give it movement! And I’ll throw in a group of mimed aristocratic girls stage right playing cards and conversing, and a group of mimed aristocratic men stage left chatting, too. Oh, and a couple of Harlequin mimes to jump around, in and out of things, make fun of your singing Time and Tragic Muse, and interrupt your dancers.
will hold people’s interest.”
But once you get past the Prolog, where it’s clear Jean-Marie Villégier gave up completely on the opera, matters improve. The rest is by no means an authentic production such as Lully’s
Cadmus et Hermione
(Alpha 701) is in all respects save dance, but it is a tasteful one that weds modern stage solutions to Baroque style. In place of a deep thrust stage with four or five levels of stage scenery in floor grooves, we have a proscenium-arch stage, wallpapered in Louis XIV style with a faux-marble floor. Dance steps are mostly accurate, and the costuming by Patrice Cauchetier is perfect for the period, if more fancifully chosen for various stage roles. The actors use very little makeup and address one another: modern concepts, and all the better for it, as French Baroque operatic performers of both sexes wore heavy makeup, and always addressed the audience. There are no set changes, just a few sensibly chosen props. Lully’s scene-change music is accompanied by other activities, the most creative of which has a mimed Alecton in black robes, bearing a censer, chase Atys around banks of candles at floor level—until, caught, the hero falls to the ground and succumbs to the fateful hallucination that will lead to the murder of his lover, Sangaride.
The performances are mostly very fine. Nicolas Rivenq seems to be having a bad day, with the upper range of his voice fraying, and movement across notes a bit sluggish, but the lower range remains solid and darkly impressive. Stéphanie d’Oustrac is excellent, though, and Emmanuelle de Negri only slightly less so, with a few off-pitch notes late in the performance. Bernard Richter is the best thing in the production, however. A tenor rather than a high tenor as called for in the work, he has both an interpretative grasp of the considerable dramatic range of the part, and the tonal sweetness to make much of Atys’s final human moments. Christie and Les Arts Florissants perform with accustomed vigor, delicacy, and precision.
The second disc includes 100 minutes of talking-head interviews with some of the creative and administrative forces behind the mounting of
. Most of it is the kind of rehashing of historical details that usually goes into liner notes. Just occasionally, we get a brief glimpse into the people who make the decisions about costuming. I would we had more of that, of how and why particular solutions were found to staging issues.
The video format is 16:9, with audio available as Dolby stereo and DTS 5.1. Subtitles are supplied in French, English, German, Spanish, and Italian.
This is an attractive, clever, and touching performance of
. Given its modern treatment of blocking and acting, it would furnish a better introduction to French Baroque opera than some of the more traditional DVD productions out there—but only if you skip the Prolog, which is a messy, unfocused failure.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Region: All Region
Timing: 295 minutes
Format: Dolby Digital Stereo DTS 5.1
Works on This Recording
Atys, LWV 53 by Jean-Baptiste Lully
Bernard Richter (Tenor),
Paul Agnew (Tenor),
Sophie Daneman (Soprano),
Marc Mauillon (Baritone),
Nicolas Rivenq (Baritone),
Cyril Auvity (Tenor),
Stéphanie D'Oustrac (Mezzo Soprano),
Jaël Azzaretti (Soprano)
Les Arts Florissants
Written: 1676; France
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