Dauvergne: Hercule Mourant

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dauvergne
LABELS: Aparté
ALBUM TITLE: Dauvergne: Hercule Mourant
WORKS: Hercule Mourant
PERFORMER: Andrew Foster-Williams, Véronique Gens, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Julie Fuchs, Jaël Azzaretti, Alain Buet; Les Chantres du Centre du Musique Baroque de Versailles; Les Talons Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: AP042

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Antoine Dauvergne cut a rather awkward figure in the operatic world of pre-revolutionary France. Although he was director of the Opéra three times between 1769 and 1790, he made few friends and committed a serious error of judgment in not backing Gluck’s operas, particularly when Iphigénie en Aulide proved a hit in 1774. But if he lacks the colourful orchestration and melodic inventiveness of Mondonville, there is much to enjoy in this opera premiered in 1762.

The plot is complicated, involving plenty of jealousy and intrigue. In the end, Hercules returning home from his 12 labours does not, in fact, die but, as you might expect of a son of Jupiter, is transfigured as he joins the rest of his Olympian family.

The formal exchanges of the first act are improved by Dauvergne’s genuinely lyrical instinct. He succeeds more convincingly in ceremonial passages such as the victory chorus heralding Hercules’s return in Act I, and the martial music in Act III. This is an enjoyable disc, and Christophe Rousset’s accompaniment is mostly flawless. Andrew Foster-Williams (Hercules) has the measure of the drama in his role, even if his tone is occasionally a little rough. Emiliano Gonzalez Toro as Hilus is more appealing and Jaël Azzaretti as Dirce is always effective. Very well recorded, this is a work to savour even if it doesn’t pack the punch of Dauvergne’s teacher, Rameau.

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Jan Smaczny