ALBUM TITLE: Lully, ou le Musicien du Soleil, Vol 7: Isis
PERFORMER: Françoise Masset, Isabelle Desrochers, Valérie Gabail, Guillemette Laurens, Robert Getchell, Howard Crook, Bertrand Chuberre, Bernard Deletré, Renaud Delaigue; La Simphonie du Marais/Hugo Reyne
CATALOGUE NO: 476 8048
Lully’s Isis is one of the composer’s most grandiose tragic operas and one of his most colourful scores. There is a wealth of pictorial detail including the celebrated chorus of ‘tremblers’ typifying the denizens of the chilly north and the inspiration for Purcell’s rather more terrifying ‘chattering’ chorus in King Arthur. The instrumental writing is at times particularly attractive and includes the ear-catching participation of the musette and an affectingly coloured lament for Pan in Act III. Unusually, the action involves only immortals with no human hero or heroine in their midst, and plays itself out in alternation with a series of elaborate divertissements with a large amount of choral participation. The opera’s central love triangle of Juno, Jupiter and the nymph Io – who after her many travails is metamorphosed
into the divine Isis – proved a little ‘close to the bone’ for Louis XIV since it was rather too evident a depiction of his own domestic
affairs with two of his mistresses.
Recorded at a concert, this performance is strong on ensemble dramatic timing. Guillemette Laurens is splendid as the vengeful Juno and Françoise Masset is convincingly theatrical in the title role, although one can’t help feeling
at times her tone is a little shrill.
The instrumentalists are directed by Hugo Reyne with evident enthusiasm and a clear feel for the rhythmic idioms of late 17th-century France and the whole is very clearly and credibly recorded. The only slight disappointment here is the chorus which, with the exception of their singing in the stately Prologue, is at times uncertain both in pitch and
their rhythmic precision.