Friday, March 11, 2011

Lully - Atys - Christie, Les Arts Florissants







Jean-Baptiste Lully has long been known as the father of French opera; this 1987 recording was the first to suggest his works are fit for something more than the library shelf. Though the 1676 Atys lacks the depth of texture and characterization (as well as the sheer weirdness) found in Rameau, the opera is like a catalog of French Baroque recitative and aria techniques in this Dangerous Liaisons-style story of love and jealousy amid royals and gods. Ironically, when Jean-Baptiste Lully the title character goes to sleep in act 3, the music truly wakes up in an imaginative, strikingly mellifluous evocation of abstract gods such as Morpheus and Phantasmus. William Christie's direction isn't quite as crisp and polished as later recordings, but his sense of style and ability to find passion behind the operatic formality is rock solid, with fine vocal contributions by Guy de Mey (Atys), Agnes Mellon (Sangaride), and Guillemette Laurens (Cybele). --David Patrick Stearns


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