ALBUM TITLE: Lully
PERFORMER: Françoise Masset, Céline Ricci,Guillemette Laurens, François-NicolasGeslot, Bertrand Chuberre, FlorianWestphal; La Simphonie du Marais/Hugo Reyne
In an era marked by convoluted standards of operatic plots, that of Amadis stands out for its complexity, a feature which did not go unnoticed among contemporaries even though no less an authority than Louis XIV had chosen the subject matter.
Turning to medieval chivalry for the subjects of his later operas, having suffered indigestion with the somewhat chillier heroes of classical antiquity, Lully clearly warmed to his task.
Time and again this score rises well above the merely professional that marks so many stretches of Lully’s earlier operas. Even the conventionally ceremonial prologue has exceptional melodic elegance.
An elevated tone reflecting the chivalric subject matter of the libretto is evident from the start. Lully’s command of operatic lyricism reaches heights of eloquence in Amadis’s renowned Act II aria, ‘Bois epais’; even this is surpassed by Oriane’s horrified monologue delivered in Act IV on thinking she has killed Amadis.
The resonant acoustic in which this concert performance is recorded means that a certain amount of detail is lost in some of the more heavily instrumented passages, but it captures the solo voices splendidly.
Throughout there is a strong sense of dramatic engagement from the protagonists and the excellently shaped continuo accompaniment. François-Nicolas Geslot (Amadis) negotiates the occasionally dizzying vocal heights of his role with skill and as Oriane, Guillemette Laurens is consistently affecting.
From time to time, intonation is sacrificed to the cut and thrust of the drama, but in general this is undeniably a handsome account of Lully’s fine opera.