Friday, February 25, 2011

Charpentier - La Descente D'Orphee aux enfers - Christie, Les Arts Florissants







The myth of Orpheus--the divine musician who went to Hades to rescue his bride Eurydice from the dead and whose song actually persuaded Pluto to release her--has been irresistible to operatic composers from Monteverdi to Offenbach. One of the happiest rediscoveries of the Baroque revival is this lovely one-act chamber opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier,which combines the gentle lilt typical of French Baroque music with the beautiful melodies and delicious suspensions in which Charpentier excelled. Charpentier diverged from the myth in one important Marc-Antoine Charpentier respect: he omitted the tragic ending in which Orpheus loses Eurydice a second time, instead allowing the couple to live happily ever after. Orpheus is sung by Baroque tenor extraordinaire Paul Agnew,whose pure, sweet, and flexible singing would convince Pluto to release the dead from Hell if anyone's could. Sophie Daneman, Monique Zanetti, Patricia Petibon, and Jean-François Gardeil head a cast without a single weak link; the instrumentalists of Les Arts Florissants are as skillful and sensitive as always. If you want to sample French Baroque opera at its best without investing in a three- or four-disc set, you can do no better than this. --Matthew Westphal


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