Locke: Psyche (Ensemble Correspondances)
Caroline Weynants, Caroline Bardot, Lucile Richardot, David Tricou, Nicolas Brooymans; Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé (Harmonia Mundi)
Caroline Weynants, Caroline Bardot, Lucile Richardot, David Tricou, Nicolas Brooymans; Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé
Harmonia Mundi HMM905325.26 107:00 mins (2 discs)
Recounting the myth of Psyche, whose legendary beauty enflamed the love of Cupid and the envy of Venus, this English ‘dramatick opera’ was commissioned by Charles II from the poet-playwright Thomas Shadwell and composers Matthew Locke and Giovanni Battista Draghi. Since Draghi’s contributions have not survived, this reconstruction by harpsichordist-director Sébastien Daucé fills the gaps with suitable music by Locke and contemporary composers who wrote for the English stage. The original would also have included spoken dialogue which is omitted here, meaning the musical numbers come thick and fast.
In its day, the work made quite an impression with its ‘new Scenes, new Machines, new Cloaths, new French Dances’, and, musically, it’s lost none of its freshness. Declamatory airs give way to tuneful songs and varied ensembles and choruses. There are atmospheric ‘curtain raisers’, entries and dances by turns rustic, martial, stately. Here and there, Locke spices up his foot-tapping score with chromaticisms and counterpoint, and everywhere his influence on Purcell is apparent. Add to all this a battery of theatrical and acoustical effects conjuring up grotesque scenes, flying gods, animated statues, infernal encounters with devils and furies, and you have a thrilling dramatic canvas.
Daucé has assembled a talented cast for this stylish performance: soloists are well matched, giving a sense of integrity to the whole, and Shadwell’s text is clearly articulated (albeit with some seductive French-shaded accents). The real stars of the show are the instrumentalists who, under Daucé’s taught and exuberant direction, bring the score to pulsating life.