L’Opéra du Roi soleil
Arias by L Lully, JB Lully, Marais, Campra, Desmarest, Stuck & Monteclair
Katherine Watson (soprano); Les Ambassadeurs/Alexis Kossenko
Aparté AP209 73:25 mins
For those worried that a recording entitled ‘The Opera of the Sun King’ might imply lashings of Lully, there is much more variety on offer here in an imaginatively-assembled programme, including Eurydice’s lament from Orphée by his son Louis. While undoubtedly expressive, Louis’s writing is a little foursquare; Marais’s lament for Ariane offers far more passion and variety. To say that the artistic peaks on this disc are represented by Lully’s successors and the troughs by Lully himself would verge on the unjust, but the ear is inevitably drawn to the superb lightness of Campra’s Chaconne from Idoménée or the elegance of his Sarabande from Télèphe. And for those enervated by a surfeit of lamentation, the Italianate jollity of Stuck’s trumpet-accompanied air from Thétis is a complete delight as is Marais’s rollicking Sailors’ March from Alcyone.
Katherine Watson is an excellent guide in this repertoire. The abundant ornamentation required is always integrated into her seamless and highly expressive vocal line. Unfortunately, the rather resonant acoustic militates against enjoying every nuance in her performance and some details of the accompaniment are sometimes obscured, a pity since the playing of Les Ambassadeurs directed by Alexis Kossenko is flexible and expert throughout.