WORKS: Le carnaval de Venise
PERFORMER: Salomé Haller, Marina de Liso, Andrew Foster-Williams, Alain Buet, Mathias Vidal, Sarah Tynan, Blandine Staskiewicz, Luigi De Donato; Concert Spirituel Orchestra & Chorus; The Singers of the Versailles Centre of Baroque Music/Hervé Niquet
CATALOGUE NO: Glossa GCD 921622
The 45-year period between the death of Lully and the start of Rameau’s career as an opera composer is often considered a fallow period in French opera. While no composer was dominant, there are moments of remarkable efflorescence: Charpentier’s Medée, alone, is the finest musical-dramatic work of 17th-century France and Campra’s Le carnaval de Venise certainly one of its most colourful.
While Campra cannot manage the dramatic range of Charpentier, the grander set pieces, such as the entertainment of the Venetian Castellani and Boatmen, and Isabella’s impassioned lament, both in Act III, are very fine. But perhaps the most striking episode is the presentation, in Italian, of the drama of Orpheus in the Underworld with its successful blend of Italianate brilliance and French delicacy.
Hervé Niquet directs a fine instrumental ensemble whose players are entirely at ease with the score’s stylistic niceties. The singing is more variable, though Salomé Haller is magnificent as Isabelle and Andrew Foster-Williams is entirely convincing as Rodolphe. Overall it’s a fascinating issue. Jan Smaczny