Rameau: Les fêtes de Polymnie

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LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Les fêtes de Polymnie
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens, Emo˝ke Baráth, Aurélia Legay, Mathias Vidal; Purcell Choir; Orfeo Orchestra/György Vashegyi


Rameau’s opera-ballet Les fêtes de Polymnie, composed in 1745, celebrated the victory of Fontenoy, with a prologue in which no effort is made to stint in praising Louis XV: good old-fashioned stuff, and its volatile instrumental and choral richness constantly beguiles. The remaining three sections present an uncomplicated, though often high-minded celebration, lacking, among Rameau’s near-contemporary operas, the colour of Naïs or the anarchic humour of Platée.

In a fine performance, though, many of the work’s shortcomings may be forgotten. Emo˝ke Baráth is superb as Polymnie as she is in her other roles. Mathias Vidal is dramatic, lyrical and commanding as the ‘Leader of the Arts’ and most especially Alcide, while Aurélia Legay is compelling as both Mnémosyne and Hébé. György Vashegyi’s direction of the Orfeo Orchestra, soloists and chorus produces both stylish playing and, where necessary, as in the ‘opening of the Palace of Fate’, striking ensemble. The large chorus is alert and sumptuous in tone, but at times it lacks clarity in some contrapuntal passages. The main problem is a cavernous acoustic which often swamps the soloists.


Jan Smaczny