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BBC Music Magazine (02/2020)
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Lully: Isis Product Image

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149028133684

Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Berta Joncus


Christophe Rousset has restored to us Lully's Isis, whose only other complete recording no longer distributed. Isis is classic Lully: when the heroine Io laments her tortures, or when Juno and Jupiter clash, or the chorus thrusts itself forward, Lully binds action to speech with staggering musical ingenuity. Drawing on his all‑French cast, Rousset reanimates a wordbook that contemporaries criticised for its longeurs, as well as for dramatising King Louis XlV's domestic rows.


The action follows Io (the kings mistress), whose beauty causes Jupiter (Louis XIV) to quit his wife Juno (Queen Maria Theresa) for a dalliance. As a result, Io loses her shepherd‑lover and Juno claims Io for her own court; after Jupiter's minions try and fail to rescue lo, Juno has her tortured. Confined to alternating realms of extreme cold and extreme heat, Io pleads for death; only Jupiter's vow to return to Juno rings the release of Io, transformed into the goddess Isis.


Padding out this story are divertissements that, while superb as spectacle, undercut the operas momentum. Rousset meets this challenge by pushing performers to their dramatic limits. Asked to focus on words, the soloists sound deliberately ugly at times, which highlights their flawless execution elsewhere. Standout cast members are Ève­Maud Hubeaux, whose grace, sincerity and vocal radiance make Io wholly credible, and Bénédicte Tauran, whose persistent re‑setting of pulse broadcasts Junos impetuous nature. Vivifying Lully's characterisations, chorus and band shape‑shift into, shepherds, Furies and Sylvans on demand. Truly an Olympian event.



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