Acis et Galatée
Cyril Auvity, Ambroisine Bré, Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Deborah Cachet, Philippe Estèphe; Chœur de Namur; Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
Aparté AP269 111:00 mins (2 discs)
Lully wrote his last and perhaps greatest opera in 1686 to impress the next King of France. The score is stuffed with ravishing laments, sublime divertissements and virtuosic orchestral parts. Unlike in Ovid’s myth his characters mature over time: for instance Galatée, though first capricious, comes to agonise over her failure to protect her beloved Acis from being murdered by the jealous cyclops Polypheme.
Rousset’s mesmerising conducting binds chorus to band in Lully’s most striking passages, such as the yelps of a terrified chorus or the blow that kills Acis. The principals are equally arresting. As Galatée, Ambroisine Bré’s constant probing of character – her numbers being among the longest Lully ever wrote – climax in her haunting Act III solo ‘Enfin j’ai dissipé la crainte’, in which Bré’s rich timbres crater into a whisper on discovering Acis’s corpse. Cyril Auvity conveys Acis’s fears in suspenseful, transparent pianissimos that fracture his otherwise sleek lyricism. The velvety textures of baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer, and his characterisation, make us feel almost sorry for the rejected Polypheme. Of the several characters Lully added to Ovid’s story, Bénédicte Tauran’s Scylla steals the show with her silvery charms. The palm, however, goes to the band and chorus of the Les Talens Lyriques, whose 30th anniversary this recording marks, as they deliver in spades the utmost precision, energy and passion which Lully’s opera demands.