RAMEAU Hippolyte et Aricie • Mark Padmore (Hippolyte); Anna-Maria Panzarella (Aricie); Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Phèdre); Laurent Naori (Thésée); Eirian James (Diana); Gaëlle Mechaly (Cupid/Sailor Girl); Patricia PetibonRead more (Priestess/Shepherdess); William Christie, cond; Les Arts Florissants • ERATO 663052 (3 CDs: 182:42)
This isn’t a new recording of Hippolyte et Aricie, but a reissue of the one recorded in Paris at the Salle Wagram in 1996, following a wildly successful series of performances the year before at the Palais Garnier. That original release was well and thoroughly reviewed in these pages by David Johnson (Fanfare 20:6).
Sylvie Bouis-sou’s edition, as Johnson notes, ups the ante on authenticity over Minkowski/Musiciens du Louvre (Archiv 001572102) with numerous changes, much but not all of it recitative, in an attempt to get at what Rameau wanted before being forced to make concessions for the performance of his first opera. The most significant variation occurs at the end of the work, where conductor William Christie includes some recitative, a short air, and a reprised chorus that aren’t in Minkowski. (Johnson prefers Minkowski; I prefer Christie). The differences throughout are such that, as Johnson points out, you can’t follow the Christie version with Minkowski’s libretto—which makes Warner’s decision to eliminate the old libretto and English translation and replace them with brief synopses all the more regrettable. Christie’s is also the larger ensemble of the two, though still within the bounds of period accuracy. Johnson, again, opts for Minkowski because of the solo work that stands out, but I find Les Arts Florissants far more involved than Les Musiciens du Louvre in many places, especially the magnificently atmospheric Underworld scenes of act II. Minkowski here seems tense and ill at ease.
Where the singers are concerned, I second Johnson’s views without reservation. Mark Padmore is an affecting and lyrical Hippolyte. Lorraine Hunt is exceptional as Phèdre, for interpretation, vocal beauty, and agility. Laurent Naouri is superb: a firm lower range, and a refined baritonal timbre for the top notes, at a time when basses were expected to have it all. Eirian James, whom Johnson doesn’t mention, combines forward enunciation with a dark tone, and a strong theatrical sense. Only Anna-Maria Panzarella moderately disappoints, though she actually sounds better here than in several later DVD and CD releases I’ve reviewed, especially Rameau’s Les Boréades (Opus Arte OA 0899 D) and Desmarest’s Venus et Adonis (Ambroisie 127). In retrospect, Johnson’s point about her tendency to sing ever so slightly flat followed by an adjustment upward after landing on a held note may have been a precursor to her later problems, which include sluggish movement from note to note and an inability to color or soften the voice.
In all but Panzarella, Christie’s Hippolyte et Aricie is as good as or better than Minkowski. It’s great to see it back in print, and reason once more to regret the loss of Erato as an active record producer.
Hippolyte et Aricieby Jean-Philippe Rameau Performer:
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Mezzo Soprano),
Anna Maria Panzarella (Soprano),
Mark Padmore (Tenor),
Eirian James (Mezzo Soprano),
Laurent Naouri (Bass)
Les Arts Florissants
Period: Baroque Written: 1733; Paris, France Language: French
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Stunning Performance, No LibrettoApril 1, 2012By Ryan G. (Jackson, TN)See All My Reviews"Not surprisingly, Christie and Les Arts Florissants turn in a splendid and committed performance of Rameau's first opera. I'm glad they went with the 1733 original instead of later revisions, since this earliest version has -- in addition to its intrinsic musical value -- considerable historical interest, being the first challenge to Lully's operatic sound, style, and structure. My only gripe is that, instead of the extensive notes, libretto and translation that accompanied the original release of this recording, we get an overly terse and sometimes confusing synopsis. Six stars for the recording, three for the stingy re-packaging."Report Abuse