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Rameau: Zoroastre / Kuijken, La Petite Bande

Elwes/Reyghere/Kuijken/Petite Bande
Release Date: 02/11/2010 
Label:  Deutsche Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 77144  
Composer:  Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Agnès MellonGreta de ReyghèreJacques BonaGregory Reinhart,   ... 
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium VocaleLa Petite Bande
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A major achievement - John Elwes is a stylish and eloquent Zoroastre and Gregory Reinhart makes a formidable Abramane with a commanding vocal presence. Rameau's Zoroastre should afford enduring pleasure.

Here once more, but in a new CD format, is Zoroastre, Rameau's penultimate tragedie-lyrique. Readers who bought the earlier CD issue when Deutsche Harmonia Mundi were distributed by EMI (1/88) will not be amused to learn that a new booklet has been prepared for the BMG release; this contains the full text of the opera, legibly printed and now with an English translation. Thanks are due to BMG for repackaging an otherwise excellent product, thus making it accessible to a wider listenership.

Zoroastre was
Read more first performed in Paris in 1749 and was, by and large, well received. But the librettist, Cahusac was taken to task by some for relegating the love element in the opera to a secondary place. When it was revived in 1756 Cahusac made shifts of emphasis within the plot and it is this version as it first appeared, rather than that which involved yet further small changes later in the season, which is performed here. The libretto deals with the conflict between Good and Evil or Light and Darkness central to Zoroastrianism. Oromases, King of the Genies, represents the former and has Zoroastre as his high priest, while Abramane, high priest of the Temple of Darkness represents the latter. The chief protagonists in the drama are Zoroastre and Abramane who vie for power, glory and love; their characters are skilfully and often strikingly portrayed by Rameau, whose score is richly endowed with bold dashes of colour.

I very much liked this performance when it was first issued on LP in 1984 and feel much the same about it now. John Elwes is a stylish and eloquent Zoroastre and Gregory Reinhart makes a formidable Abramane with clear diction and a resonant, commanding vocal presence. His "Osons achever de grands crimes" (Act 3 scene 2) with its syncopated accompaniment and characteristically effective bassoon writing, is especially noteworthy. As I have remarked in previous reviews, the three principal female roles are sung well though I should have liked greater aural contrasts between them. Agnes Mellon as the innocent Cephie is a particularly happy piece of casting, though Mieke van der Sluis as the jealous Erinice is rather less so. Her voice is a warmly alluring one but seems ill-suited to the darker shades of this character. Greta de Reyghere brings warmth and clarity to the role of Amelite though she does not entirely succeed in conveying the danger and unpleasantness of her predicament.

La Petite Bande is on its liveliest form and Sigiswald Kuijken's direction reveals an insight into and affection for Rameau's music. In spite of some reservations, this is a major achievement and the work one that should not be omitted from any serious opera or baroque enthusiast's library. The recorded sound is excellent and as I have already indicated, the discs are now accompanied by an informative and helpful booklet. Rameau's Zoroastre should afford enduring pleasure.

-- Gramophone [6/1991]
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Works on This Recording

1. Zoroastre by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Agnès Mellon (Soprano), Greta de Reyghère (Soprano), Jacques Bona (Baritone),
Gregory Reinhart (Bass), Michel Verschaeve (Baritone), Mieke Van der Sluis (Soprano),
François Fauche (Baritone), Philippe Cantor (Baritone), John Elwes (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sigiswald Kuijken
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ghent Collegium Vocale,  La Petite Bande
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1732; France 
Date of Recording: 3/1983 
Language: French 
Notes: 1756 Paris version. 

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