Les voyages de l’Amour
Katherine Watson, Katia Velletaz, Chantal Santon Jeffery, Judith van Wanroij, Thomas Dolié, Éléonore Pancrazi; Purcell Choir; Orfeo Orchestra/György Vashegyi
Glossa GCD 924009 157:37 mins (2 discs)
The French composer Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755) is remembered today mostly for his instrumental music, especially his flute sonatas; but there are a handful of stage works, all written for the Paris Opéra, of which Les voyages de l’Amour was the first, garnering some 18 performances following its premiere in 1736. For some reason the second act failed to please, and was quickly replaced by the composer and his librettist: on this recording both versions are included.
Cupid’s Travels is described as a ballet, but while there are numerous highly inventive dance movements it’s otherwise sung throughout, often to ornately decorated vocal lines. The plot is admittedly slight, and mildly repetitive. Cupid is determined to discover a lover who is faithful to him, and to that purpose voyages in disguise to a village (where he meets Daphné), a city (where he dallies with Lucile, or in the second version Dircé) and to a court (where he encounters Julie). The women at city and court disappoint him, however, so he returns to the village and to rustic Daphné, who represents true love.
Boismortier’s score is often delectable and both stylishly and entrancingly performed here by the rich and characterful Hungarian period-instrument orchestra and the healthy-sounding choir, with international principals among whom Katherine Watson’s Zéphire and Judith van Wanroij’s Daphné in particular stand out: Chantal Santon Jeffery’s Cupid is less even, her tone generally sweet and tender, though not always smack on the note. Conductor György Vashegyi maintains lively tempos. The sound possesses a wide range and a striking sense of perspective.