Lully; Bellérophon

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LABELS: Aparté
WORKS: Bellérophon
PERFORMER: Cyril Auvity, Ingrid Perruche, Jean Teitgen, Céline Scheen, Evgueniy Alexiev, Robert Getchell, Jennifer Borghi; Les Talens Lyriques; Choeur de Chambre de Namur/Christophe Rousset

The premiere of Bellérophon in Paris in 1679 coincided with one of the highest points of the reign of Louis XIV. Triumphant in war and with high hopes of a marriage treaty with Spain, Louis must have seemed the chief arbiter of Europe. It is hardly a stretch to see Bellérophon, the son of Neptune who vanquishes the monstrous Chimaera, as the personification of the king. Indeed, if there were any doubts that the opera was designed to celebrate the glory of Louis, we have none other than Apollo taking up much of the prologue to assert that he is the world’s greatest king.
While always attractive, Lully’s score for Bellérophon has nothing like the intensity of Alceste or Armide. The various preliminaries to Bellérophon’s defeat of the Chimaera are poignant, but the battle itself is undercharacterised. Nevertheless, this is a handsomely shaped performance with alert choral singing and expressive orchestral playing. In the title role, Cyril Auvity is convincingly heroic but also capable of fragility when required; his Act II love duet with Philonoë, excellently sung by Céline Sheen, is particularly affecting and Ingrid Perruche is magnificent in her role as an Amazon disappointed in her love for Bellérophon. The rewards of this score are a little on the slender side, but this disc makes the best of them. Jan Smaczny