For any enthusiast of Baroque music, the production of Lully's Armide at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, directed by William Christie and staged by Robert Carsen, was an exceptional event. The last and most successful collaboration between Lully and his librettist Quinault, Armide is the ideal of the genre as desired by Louis XIV: a tragic opera that achieves the perfect fusion of music, song and dance. William Christie leads the orchestra and chorus of Les Arts Florissants and a dazzling cast. Stephanie D’Oustrac is the imperious sorceress Armida, overcome by the violence of a forbidden passion.
Twenty-four years ago, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants premièred Jean-Baptiste Lully s opera Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris. It was a smashing success, and marked a pivotal moment in the history of period performance practice. Christie became a tireless champion of the music of Lully and helped rehabilitate the composer s once stodgy reputation. In Armide, the tragédie en musique (a genre that Lully and his librettist Quinault jointly invented) reaches its peak of emotional and musical expression. Robert Carsen s highly acclaimed 2008 production of Armide at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées rekindled interest in French Baroque music. On this new video from FRA Musica, filmed at the Château de Versailles, Carsen and stage director Jean-Claude Gallotta present an opulent and powerful vision of Lully s poignant masterpiece.
This superb recording of the compositions of Lully for the court of Louis XIV is almost perfect in delivery; evoking the sophistication, wit, grandeur, humor that would be required to entertain the most demanding of monarchs amidst the most sophisticated court in Europe. The character of Lully is fascinating. Lully was an Italian actor, dancer and musician who becomes the central creative force in music theatre in the court of the Sun King. However it is the flawless music that is contained in this recording that should be heard. With use of period instruments William Christie and Les Arts Florissants paint a range of compositions from various operas and periods in Lully's career in the court of the Sun King.
The first collaboration ever between conductor William Christie and director Luc Bondy with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, this production of Hercules has been a major event. Hercules returns from the war with Iole, a princess he fell in love with. Mad with jealousy, Déjanire, his wife, ends up totally insane after poisoning her husband. Half theatrical performance, half secular oratorio, Hercules wasn’t originally meant to be performed in front of an audience. Luc Bondy chose to show the dramatis personae as ordinary people, victims of their passions. The superb Chorus of the Arts Florissants, both mediator and prosecutor, is the main witness of this tragedy of women’s jealousy.
Inspired by a fable by La Fontaine, Rameau produced perhaps his most brilliant music for his penultimate great work, blending reality and the surreal on several levels. This passionate new production by José Montalvo stunningly choreographed by Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu, sets new standards in entertainment, charm and ingenuity. The sharp and spectacular multimedia staging does full justice to Rameau's dazzling burlesque, confirming Olivier Rouvière's statement that ‘Les Paladins' is the last laugh of a witty 77-year old composer’. Recorded live in 2004 at the Paris Théâtre du Châtelet in true surround sound, both the virtuoso cast and Les Arts Florissants are in top form, clearly enjoying themselves in the masterful hands of William Christie.
"Described as an Opera-Ballet in four Acts, Les Indes Galantes was Rameau's biggest stage success in his own lifetime, and one can understand why from this spectacular production, staged at the Paris Opéra in 2004. The director, Andrei Serban, presents the piece with the sort of lavish effects and movement that would have delighted 18th-century audiences…Outstanding among the soloists are Nathan Berg as Huascar…Anna Maria Panzarella as Emilie and Paul Agnew as Valere, with Joao Fernandez memorably in drag as Bellone. The final curtain brings an exuberant encore after the credits, with Christie hilariously joining in the dance.– The Penguin Guide