ALBUM TITLE: Campra
PERFORMER: Benoït Arnould, Isabelle Druet, Chantal Santon, Alain Buet, Éric Martin-Bonnet, Erwin Aros, Anne-Marie Beaudette, Marie Favier; Les Chantres du centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles; Orchestre les Temps Présents/ Olivier Schneebeli
CATALOGUE NO: 958
André Campra (1660-1774) produced some of the most colourful music in French opera in the generation after Lully’s death. A provincial from Provence, he first made his name in Paris as a church musician, but the success of his opera-ballet L’Europe galante drew him inexorably to the theatre. His finest lyric tragedy was Tancrède, premiered in 1702; presented with eye-catching sets, it was a great success and often revived, including a performance at Versailles in 1748 with none other than Madame de Pompadour as Herminie. The story of Tancrède, as in Monteverdi’s Tancredi e Clorinda, is taken from Tasso’s much admired crusader epic Gerusalemme liberata which has a captivating blend of chivalry and enchantment.
In fact, Campra’s score is much more rewarding than most Lully. From the start there is a finer orchestral palette, more elegantly conceived melody linked to greater harmonic piquancy; the drama is also handled with unfailing assurance, resulting in an almost romantic intensity in the exchanges between soloists and chorus.
Olivier Schneebeli directs an appealing performance with clear regard for the score’s strong theatricality, but not all is perfect. The chorus could be firmer in tone and intonation although the orchestra and continuo are for the most part splendid.
Among the soloists Benoït Arnould is resonant and impassioned as Tancrède. The two women leads, Herminie (Chantal Santon) and Clorinde (Isabelle Druet), begin uncertainly, but grow impressively as the drama develops. A slightly more favourable recorded sound would have helped the soloists, but as a whole this is an impressive and enjoyable issue. Jan Smaczny