Rameau: La guirlande; Zéphyre

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WORKS: La guirlande; Zéphyre
PERFORMER: Sophie Daneman, Gaëlle Méchaly, Rebecca Ockenden, Sophie Decaudaveine, Paul Agnew, François Bazola; Cappella Coloniensis, Choir of Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85774-2
In their latest release, William Christie, Les Arts Florissants and the period-instrument ensemble of West German Radio, Cappella Coloniensis, have brought together two of Rameau’s actes de ballets. These ones are rarely encountered, each having been only once previously recorded, La guirlande (1751) in the Sixties, and Zéphyre (1750s) in 1976. Neither version gave fair or favourable account of these charming one-act operas, so their rehabilitation by Christie and his gifted musicians is all the more welcome. Actes de ballets, with their vital dance ingredient and a simple, continuous plot confined within a single act, were evidently popular in mid-century Paris with its developing taste for lighter fare. Rameau proved himself highly imaginative in a comparatively restricted medium, blending air, recitative, chorus and dance into a structure whose time-span is contained well within the hour. Sophie Daneman is about as alluring as you could wish for in the role of the shepherdess Zélide (La guirlande), while the ardent musical responses of Paul Agnew (Myrtil) are lyrically and idiomatically inflected. Zéphyre is comparably appealing, with Gaëlle Méchaly’s mischievous, lightly articulated performance in the title role proving, to these ears at least, irresistible. The choruses are lively, disciplined and sharply defined and seasoned Ramellians will have fun in cross-referencing some of the many atmospheric and invigorating dances. Nicholas Anderson