Rameau: Les Paladins

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Coviello
WORKS: Les Paladins
PERFORMER: Anna Virovlansky, Iulia Elena Surdu, Laimonas Pautienius, Anders J Dahlin, Adrian Sâmpetrean, Thomas Michael Allen; Neue Düsseldorfer Hofmusik/Konrad Junghänel
CATALOGUE NO: COV 21013

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Unutterably dull’ was the verdict delivered by Le Mercure on the premiere of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Paladins. Adapted from Ariosto via La Fontaine, this burlesque fairytale of romantic intrigues, magical transformations and musical chinoiserie may have flopped in 1760 but tastes change. As José Montalvo and Dominque Hervieu’s 2004 Théâtre du Châtelet production with Les Arts Florissants proved, the energy and wit of a performance is capable of transforming the thinnest scores.

Aside from the reissue of Jean-Claude Malgoire’s 1990 recording, Konrad Junghänel’s live recording with Neue Düsseldorfer Hofmusik has no direct audio competition. Though the Opus Arte DVD of the Châtelet production has the advantage of a largely Francophone cast – not to mention the visual delights of Baroque, Classical and street dance, and multi-layered computer generated bunnies – Junghänel proves as adept a stylist in French music as he is in German Baroque. The soft-grained acoustics of Duisberg Opera House show the vitality of the string playing to great effect; the Düsseldorf instruments wreathe a heady spell. 

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Top marks to the uncredited language coach, for this cast hails from America, Romania, Russian, Lithuania and Sweden. As Orcan, Laimonas Pautienius gives the fullest performance, while Anna Virovlanksy and Iulia Elena Surdu flutter pleasingly as the limpid Argie and her perky maid-servant, Nérine. Haute-contre Anders Dahlin floats in and out of focus (and register) as the knight-errant Atis, hitting his stride in the nick of time for ‘Lance, lance, amour!’, Rameau’s dashing showpiece. Anna Picard