LABELS: Naïve Astrée
PERFORMER: Paul Agnew, Anna Maria Panzarella, Salomé Haller, Jérôme Correas; Les Chantres de la Chapelle, Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: E 8874
It may seem odd that the eponymous hero of Persée sings almost nothing, but this is French tragédie lyrique, and for Persée read Louis XIV and for the monsters that he slays read the foreign governments that dared tangle with 17th-century Europe’s most glorious monarch. Ceremony rather than drama is the prime concern in this mostly delightful score; even the innovative choruses of Act IV add more colour than excitement to Persée’s vanquishing of the sea monster. Lully’s professionalism is consummate: scene after scene passes with remarkable fluency, rarely descending into banality. The exchange in Act II between Andromède and Mérope (superbly sung by Anna Maria Panzarella and Salomé Haller), Persée’s two inamoratas, as they lament the peril of his attempting to kill the Gorgon Medusa, must be one of the most sweetly poignant Lully ever penned.
Christophe Rousset and his performers realise the dynamics of Lully’s score with experienced skill. Even the poised flatteries of the Prologue pass with considerable conviction, though some of the later concerted episodes with chorus in the latter parts of Act IV could have done with a little more gravitas. Overall, however, this excellent issue will do nothing but good for Lully’s reputation. Jan Smaczny