Centuries after the life of Jean-Baptiste Lully, his operas continue to be performed and recorded. In this episode we focused on two new recordings of operas by Lully: a dynamic release from the Boston Music Festival Orchestra, and an equally exciting recording by La Simphonie du Marais.
Directors Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs have been busy in the past year with the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra and Chorus. They have managed to put together not one but two Lully operas within a single season. Many of you may be familiar with the Boston Early Music Festival’s recent critically acclaimed performance of Psyché, but you may not be aware that they also recorded the opera Thésée shortly before that. In its day, Thésée was one of number of successful collaborations between Lully and the librettist Phillipe Quinault.
The story of Thésée will be familiar…a boy and girl of royal background love each other. A kingly figure wishes to marry said girl while a devious princess of the magical variety wants to have the boy for herself. Mix in a little potent magic heaped upon the girl, an unsuccessful attempt at stealing away the boy’s love, a timely recognition with a generous reprieve by the kingly figure, and a last minute godly foil with some sour-grapes magic, and there you have it—an adaptation of a section of Ovid’s Metamorphoses through the French baroque lenses of Phillipe Quinault. Set in both then modern-day Versailles and in parts of the mythological beyond, the opera was nothing short of a success.
For the past few years Hugo Reyne’s ensemble La Simphonie du Marais has been recording a number of Lully’s stage works. As part of their latest offering they have released the world premier of the opera Amadis. Amadis, one of a few to be based not on a mythological theme but a tale out of medieval chivalry: the story of Amadis of Gaul. Recorded live, the performance was the opening event of the 10th Musique à la Chabotterie festival—an auspicious rediscovery of an opera whose story was hand-picked by Louis XIV himself.
Today, Lully is an unquestionably famous figure for many, many reasons. Of the more obvious, the tunefulness of some of his compostions are near the top of the list. Amadis holds the distinction of being the origin of the composer’s most famous air, Amour, que veux-tu de moi. Writer Le Cerf de la Vieville claimed that the air was so popular that every cook in France knew it.
The new release of the week features Hilliard Ensemble‘s performances of the Motets of Johann Sebastian Bach.