Texte paru dans: / Appeared in:
BBC Music Magazine (11/2019)
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Code-barres / Barcode : 0761203528325

Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Kate Bolton-porciatti

As the title suggests, Charpentier’s Pleasures of Versailles of 1682 is a deliciously frothy confection, its libretto personifying the courtly pleasures (Music, Conversation, Gaming and Banqueting) who squabble for supremacy until they weld harmoniously – over lashings of wine and hot chocolate! The aural equivalent of petits fours, this dainty yet teasing ‘petit opéra’ was probably intended for the musical Soirées in Louis XIV’S private chambers at Versailles.


The disc’s main course, though, is the short chamber-opera Les Arts Florissants of 1685 – another allegorical contest probably for Versailles, this time between Discord, Peace, and the eponymous Arts, whose disputes provide Charpentier every excuse to melt scrumptious dissonances into sweet harmonies. Both scores are a kaleidoscope of instrumental and vocal colours: decorous, liquid, ornamental airs turn to buoyant and vigorous dances and choruses that range from playful to grotesque. (Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas may have been influenced by the onomatopoeiac laughing chorus of Les Plaisirs and the cackling furies of Les Arts.)


This recording, made in the wake of staged productions at the prestigious Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF), combines drama, verve and humour with the polished lacquer of a studio recording.


The BEMF Vocal Ensemble and a team of well-matched soloists offer seductive and generally stylish singing (bar some moments of over-projection). Directed by period-performance stalwarts Paul O’dette and Stephen Stubbs, the instrumentalists play with sprightly grace and an aptly gauzy sound, while the CPO engineers bring the pastel colours of this operatic diptych vividly to life.




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