Lully: Amadis

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Lully
LABELS: Aparté
WORKS: Amadis
PERFORMER: Cyril Auvity, Judith van Wanroij, Ingrid Perruche, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Benoît Arnauld , Hasnaa Bennani; Chœur de Chambre de Namur; Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: AP0 94

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Amadis represents something of a new trend in Lully’s operas. The subject, selected by Louis XIV, reflects an almost Arthurian world of medieval romance contrasting with the lofty classical subjects he had favoured hitherto. Although Lully was musically set in his ways by this stage, there are some surprising moments, not least in his use of more duets than was customary, scaling heights of expressive richness in those between the captive Florestan and Corisande in Act III. Elsewhere there is much that is conventional – not least the extensive celebratory chaconne of the conclusion which stretches patience without an enlivening visual element – but this is balanced by some orchestral thrills, notably in the combats ending Act I.

Christophe Rousset keeps a tight grip on ensemble: firm in attack and responsive to the shifting affects of the libretto. The chorus is impressively flexible if not always perfect in intonation. The triumph here is provided by the soloists making the most of their opportunities. Cyril Auvity, magnificent in the title role, provides a range of timbre, both heroic and soft-grained, with some exquisite ornamentation. Benoît Arnould’s Florestan is convincingly solid in Act I as well as expressive when required, and Hasnaa Bennani’s Corisdande is often meltingly beautiful. The exchanges between Arcabonne (Ingrid Perruche) and Arcalaus (Edwin Crossley-Mercer) in Act IV certainly raise the emotional temperature. Generally well recorded, this CD displays much that is finest in Lully performance today.

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Jan Smaczny