Rameau Le Temple de la Gloire
Gabrielle Philiponet, Chantal Santon-Jeffery, Camille Ortiz, Artavazd Sargsyan, Aaron Sheehan, Philippe-Nicolas Martin; Philharmonia Baroque Chorale & Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
Philharmonia Baroque Productions PBP‐10 146:54 mins (2 discs)
Temple de la Gloire is an opéra-ballet never before recorded as Rameau first wrote it. Its original score of 1745, one of the Berkeley Music Library’s great treasures, shows the composer at his peak; Voltaire wrote the libretto, and though commissioned to glorify Louis XV’s victory at Fontenoy, the work became, due to Rameau’s and Voltaire’s respective obsessions, a thicket of diverse opera forms and an allegorical lesson in just rule. In the action, three rulers sue to enter Glory’s temple, but Glory accepts only the king who is merciful. Thirty airs, 30 dances, ensembles and sundry choruses are laced into a dense score through which the band guides us.
Nicholas McGegan’s touch has never been surer, and he pushes artists and moods to their expressive limits. Particularly splendid are the opening symphony, the Act I gigue en rondeau interlude, and the sprawling chorus-solo-dance passacaille at the end: the surges of energy in the first and last, and the gentle blushes of the gigue en rondeau, are effects only McGegan could bring off.
Steering a superb cast, McGegan also makes sense of the allegory’s bonkers mix of affects within a scene. Among soloists, Camille Ortiz is the stand-out, as innocent as she is imperious playing first a shepherdess, then a Roman woman. Aaron Sheehan, as the one king whom Glory accepts, rivals Ortiz’s vocal arts. But what a shame this recording isn’t a DVD! Audience applause attests to onstage merveilles that the listener can’t see.