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Lully: Armide / Christie - Carsen - Les Arts Florissants (Théâtre des Champs-Elysées 2008) [Blu-ray]

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: William Christie, Stéphanie d'Oustrac, Paul Agnew, Laurent Naouri, Anders J. Dahlin
  • Directors: Robert Carsen, François Roussillon
  • Writers: Jean-Baptiste Lully, Philippe Quinault
  • Producers: Les Arts Florissants, Opéra-Comique
  • Format: AC-3, Classical, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Fra Musica
  • DVD Release Date: 27 Jun. 2011
  • Run Time: 198 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004T6ABVE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,977 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

For any enthusiast of Baroque music, the production of Lully's Armide at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, directed by William Christie and staged by Robert Carsen, was an exceptional event. The last and most successful collaboration between Lully and his librettist Quinault, Armide is the ideal of the genre as desired by Louis XIV: a tragic opera that achieves the perfect fusion of music, song and dance. William Christie leads the orchestra and chorus of Les Arts Florissants and a dazzling cast. Stephanie D Oustrac is the imperious sorceress Armida, overcome by the violence of a forbidden passion. The bewitching choreography is by Jean-Claude Gallotta. Almost 25 years ago William Christie and Les Arts Florissants gave a performance of Lully's Atys in what was a watershed for the Early Music movement. We have Christie and his groundbreaking colleagues to thank for the fact that in 2008, Robert Carsen's new production of Armide at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées - conducted by Christie - was one of the hottest tickets in town. Atys has recently been revived at the Opéra Comique using singers from Christie's 'Jardin des Voix'

Customer Reviews

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By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 July 2011
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I find that William Christie, with whatever director he is working with, always manages to strike a fine balance between fidelity to the spirit of Baroque opera and making meaningful use of modern theatrical techniques that don't so much revise the work as put it into a context that makes it more accessible to a wider audience. That's certainly the case when working with the opera director Robert Carsen (Les Boréades), and the narrowing of the gap between the past and the present is taken quite literally in this production of Jean-Baptiste Lully's Armide (1686), the prologue filmed on location at Versailles, with ballet sequences much like the ones traditionally seen in the intervals of the televised New Year's Day Concerts from Vienna. There on the bed of the King of France amidst the praise given to Louis XIV, Paul Agnew falls asleep and, like in a dream, goes back to a stylised past where the story of Armide unfolds.

Thereafter, there is less cleverness and a mostly straightforward operatic staging, but like Carsen and Christie's work together on Rameau's Les Boréades, it's a highly stylised, fictional period setting, with elegant courtly uniformity of design and colour schemes to suggest location and mood. It's utterly beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, making striking use of light and colour, but working also in coordination with the tone, mood and rhythm of the music score. Christie, an American, is a recognised national treasure in France for the work he has done breathing life into the dusty, stuffy academicism of old-fashioned French Baroque opera, works his usual wonders here with Lully.
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Format: Blu-ray
All too often new opera productions have been spoilt by 'cleverness' and distracting modern anachronism. Fortunately, this staging is not extreme in comparison to some of the available Baroque operas, but there are a few objections, which I shall return to. Robert Carsen's elegant, stylised approach fits Lully well. The staging is elegantly presented in a mixture of silver grey and bright red. The emphasis is on the lighting and color schemes to archive the appropriate mood and atmosphere.

Armide, in love with her enemy Renaud is all too aware that she can only get him to love her in return by employing her magical powers. She calls up Hatred and his minions, all dressed like Armide, as if to illustrate her inner conflict. A clever idea, but it takes some time to overcome one's immediate reaction, watching the males in red dresses and lipstick. The scene where two knights save each other from female temptations, visualized by a beautiful nude dancer, is something that some may find unnecessary explicit. However, there are many scenes of great beauty such as the sleep scene, where Renaud lies on a bed of roses. Hypnotic, dreamy and strikingly beautiful. I also enjoyed the ballet sequences and the elegant uniformity of design and color, but the ballets could do more to archive scenic variety. We know a lot about the choreography of Baroque opera-ballets to-day.

Stéphanie d'Oustrac gives a gripping performance that brings all of Armide's emotional tumult to the fore, and Paul Agnew's stylish singing as Renaud is equally outstanding. William Christie conducts with his customary sure sense of style. The superbly lit production shows tremendous detail in its blu-ray transfer.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This is an excellently produced blu-ray of a great tragédie lyrique by master Lully. The recording and and picture is crystal clear throughout. There is some slight picture noise in the darker scenes, but that is what can be expected. Christie and Les Arts Florissants are just made of pure awesome and you can't put a finger on their performance. The acting is great and the singing is flawless and you get the right feeling when hearing this performance. The best thing is that the proloque is played in it's entirety. The proloque is often excluded from modern day performances and it's really sad because some of the most beautiful pieces that Lully ever composed are in the proloques.

It's however worse when it comes to the staging. It's just plain silly. There are a few scenes that capture your attention, but the general feeling that you're feeling out of place with the music and the drama. It is however far from as bad as to deduct a star because the overall impression is that of a unique and excellent production.
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Format: DVD
This is the best Lully opera recording I know (and that includes Atys). The playing and singing are intense as well as expert. Stephanie D'Oustrac is, as usual, the star of the show: the explosion in the audience when she appears alone on stage after the final act says it all. But Paul Agnew is a worthy haute contre counterpart, and Christie and his Arts Florissants are glorious, with nothing of the obvious scholarliness which constrains some baroque opera performances. If Lully's operas have the chance to be considered great, this is it. The imaginative staging aims to speak to a modern audience and it will succeed in doing so if you leave behind preconceptions about what a baroque opera should be like. The ballets are “modern” without being distracting. There's much to be said for candle-lit staging with stylised acting, but I don't think anything could rival the emotional impact of the great passacaglia and the final act in this version.
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