Marc Mauillon, Sophie Junker, Zachary Wilder; Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre (Château de Versailles)
Marc Mauillon, Sophie Junker, Zachary Wilder; Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre
Château de Versailles CVS 076 125:50 mins (2 discs)
This beguiling early opera by Francesco Cavalli is given an equally beguiling performance in this premiere recording made in the opera theatre at the Palace of Versailles. The location’s warm acoustics provide an ideal ambience (indeed, 17 years after L’Egisto’s premiere in Venice in 1643, the composer travelled to France to supervise a performance of another of his operas at the Tuileries for the marriage of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain).
Cavalli’s influence on Lully and others is already evident in L’Egisto, which concerns the tangled emotions of two pairs of pastoral lovers. The score balances lengthy recitatives with arioso-style sections, both accompanied by richly ornamented instrumentation. The 17-members of Le Poème Harmonique beautifully capture the spirit of Cavalli’s ‘Venetian style’, with its rustic dance rhythms, spare lamentations and commedia dell’arte buffoonery. Conductor Vincent Dumestre provides both sensitive and spirited direction.
All the singers give superlative accounts, with near-perfect Italian diction. Sophie Junker is a bright-toned Clori, while Marc Mauillon delivers a powerful account of Egisto’s madness in Act III when, in a scene reminiscent of Orlando Furioso, he is tortured by Clori’s betrayal. Zachary Wilder and Ambroisine Bré as Lidio and Climene give similarly emotionally-charged performances. Nicholas Scott offers earthy comic relief in the travesty role of Clori’s erstwhile wet nurse, Dema.