COMPOSERS: Destouches
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Destouches
WORKS: Callirhoé
PERFORMER: Stéphanie d’Oustrac, Cyril Auvity, João Fernandes, Ingrid Perruche, Renaud Delaigue, Stéphanie Révidat; Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
Conventional wisdom has it that between Lully’s death in 1687 and the 1733 premiere of Rameau’s Hippolyte, Baroque opera was marooned in the creative doldrums. While it is true that no individual established the credentials of either of these two giants, there is a great deal to treasure in the work of such individuals as Campra, Marais and Desmarets to name but three. Destouches’s Callirhoé is also testament to the high quality of musical drama in France at the time. The libretto is a familiar mix of aggravated passion and refined sentiment, and moves with extraordinary dramatic assurance. Musically, Destouches deploys a richer harmonic palette and a more imaginative use of orchestral texture than Lully, if not quite approaching the imagination of Rameau. That said, there are some astonishing moments, not least Corésus’s whipping up of a demonic Bacchic frenzy in the second Act.


Hervé Niquet directs a stylish performance which navigates the drama with assurance and takes due note of Destouches’s delicate instrumental colouring. Stéphanie d’Oustrac is attractive and powerfully engaged in the title role, as is Cyril Auvity as her lover, Agenor. João Fernandes brings dark intensity to the part of Corésus, but is, at times, rather rough grained in tone. Unfortunately, the recording of the voices seems a little distant, though it captures the orchestral detail admirably. Jan Smaczny