Rameau: Les Indes galantes, Platée, Dardanus, Pygmalion, Zoroastre, Les Paladins,

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LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Love Songs from the Operas
WORKS: Les Indes galantes, Platée, Dardanus, Pygmalion, Zoroastre, Les Paladins,
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson; Ex Cathedra/Jeffrey Skidmore
This is an attractive way to present solo vocal, choral and instrumental morceaux choisis from Rameau’s stage works. Items from seven such pieces feature in a programme in which the airs and dances, some of them related, are effectively dispersed. Carolyn Sampson’s voice almost invariably gives pleasure and her singing of this repertoire, strikingly varied in its stylistic and expressive ranges, is well nigh ideal. Contrarily and uniquely, the first piece on the disc is not a setting of a French text but of an Italian one. ‘Fra le pupille’ is a rarity which seldom finds its way into performances of Les Indes galantes mainly, perhaps, because it has survived only in an edition which Rameau himself prepared for concert performance. It’s quite a showy piece whose modest coloratura element is tastefully judged by Sampson. But it is in the reflective airs that her vocal allure is irresistible. Among these are a ravishing number, ‘C’est trop soupirer’ from Rameau’s last opera, a comédie-lyrique, Les Paladins and the celebrated ‘Rossignols amoureux’ from Act V of his first tragédie-lyrique, Hippolyte et Aricie. Sampson brings to these an expressive fervour and a wistfulness which charmingly mirrors both text and music; and her mezzo range here and elsewhere brings additional warmth and further enrichment of colour. The instruments of Ex Cathedra, under Jeffrey Skidmore’s stylishly assured direction, offer a sympathetic accompaniment to the vocal lines, where delicately shaded woodwind contributions often provide further enhancement, and sparkle in the purely instrumental numbers. The choir, too, is excellent. Nicholas Anderson