Notes and Editorial Reviews
Rameau composed Dardanus in 1739 at the height of the war between the Lullistes and the Ramistes. The opera was almost universally trashed but still managed to run up 26 performances, due mostly to a thousand avid Ramistes who attended all of them. The opera was revived in 1744 and it was turned into something far more down-to-earth, textually speaking--in other words, much of the supernatural hoo-ha was eliminated. It also was severely cut, since the musicians at the premiere had complained about the sheer quantity of the music, and a couple of small scenes were added. The performance presented here is essentially the 1739 version, with two 1744 scenes added: a quite marvelous prison scene for
Dardanus at the start of the fourth act, and a brief orchestral interlude earlier on. The plot--convoluted with sea monsters and changing identities--remains a mess, but the music is glorious, and as the musicians were quick to point out, there's plenty of it.
Highlights--at least a few that overwhelm--are the ferocious call to arms "Mars Bellone..." in Act 1; the scene in which Dardanus declares his love for Iphise at the close of Act 2; Iphise's grief-stricken aria at the start of Act 3; Anténor's facing down the sea monster in Act 4; and the ravishing duet for the lovers in the final act. In the person of John Mark Ainsley we have the ideal Dardanus. The high-lying music doesn't phase him and he still sounds virile; he's positively towering in his tragic prison scene. Véronique Gens' Iphise is no less superb--she goes through the opera with some very mixed feelings, and her torment is palpable. As Anténor, Laurent Naouri is manly and noble; Jean-Philippe Courtis' Magician is spooky and potent; Venus, in the person of Mireille Delunsch is truly divine; and Russell Smythe is all dignity as King Teucer, Iphise's father.
There is no praise high enough for Marc Minkowski and his Louvre musiciens--their spirit, understanding, and accuracy in the face of this challenge is extraordinary. This set easily replaces Raymond Leppard's 1980 recording of the work, which, although it featured the lovely Iphise of Frederica von Stade, eliminated the prologue entirely and otherwise used the 1744 version with a hodgepodge of instruments. This new recording also benefits from sonics that are as outstanding as the performance. This is an invaluable addition to the Rameau discography.
Works on This Recording
Dardanus by Jean-Philippe Rameau
John Mark Ainsley (Tenor),
Véronique Gens (Soprano),
Mireille Delunsch (Soprano),
Russel Smythe (Baritone),
Laurent Naouri (Baritone),
Jean-Phillipe Courtis (Baritone),
Françoise Masset (Soprano),
Jean-François Lombard (Countertenor),
Jean-Louis Bindi (Bass),
Magdalena Kozená (Alto),
Marcos Pujol (Bass)
Les Musiciens du Louvre,
Choeur des Musiciens du Louvre
Written: 1739/1744; France
Length: 155 Minutes 43 Secs.
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