Václav Luks, Deborah Cachet, Benoit Arnould et al; Collegium 1704
Versailles CVS026 165:15 mins (2 discs)
Rameau’s tragédie en musique has a curious, mostly non-performance history: in rehearsal in April 1763, when the composer was nearly 80, its production was pulled – for reasons still not clear; its creator died the following year. A concert performance may have taken place in Lille in 1770, but the first staged production was not until 1982, when Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducted it at the Aix-en-Provence festival. This recording was made live at the Opéra de Versailles in January 2020.
The ancient Greek mythical plot tells how Alphise, following innumerable difficulties, finally succeeds in evading the persistent amorous attentions of the ‘Boréades’ of the title – Calisis and Borilée, sons of Borée, the god of the north wind – instead marrying Abaris, her beloved and Apollo’s son.
In what is a thoroughly considered performance, Deborah Cachet tackles the role of Alphise with nuanced delicacy while Caroline Weynants matches her nicely as her confidante, Sémire. As Abaris, Mathias Vidal fields a performance founded on powerful, ringing tone.
As the two aggressive brothers, Tomáš Šelc makes an authoritative Borilée while Benedikt Kristjánsson’s Calisis demonstrates equivalent skill. With his formidable diction, Nicolas Brooymans is a potent Borée, while Lukáš Zeman’s Apollo is firm and articulate; Benoît Arnould offers suitably dignified interventions as Adamas, Apollo’s high priest.
Clear sound allows both the excellent work of the chorus and the skill of the period-instrument orchestra to register impressively – especially in Rameau’s numerous delectable dance movements. Václav Luks conducts with a combination of style, precision and dramatic impetus.