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Lully: The Tragedy of Armide

Opera Lafayette , Ryan Brown , Jean-Baptiste Lully Audio CD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: £11.03 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Performer: Ryan Brown
  • Orchestra: Opera Lafayette
  • Conductor: Ryan Brown
  • Composer: Jean-Baptiste Lully
  • Audio CD (29 Sep 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B001F1YBYY
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 219,706 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Acts I & II
Disc: 2
1. Acts III, IV & V

Product Description

Review

''Brown led his small, supple orchestra and sweetly blended chorus with authority, dramatic intensity and welling musicanship.... the outstanding performance of the afternoon was that of mezzo-soprano Stephanie Houtzeel in the role of Armide. It would be a cliche to say she was ''larger than life'' and, in fact, she seemed something even more elemental. At its best, her Armide seemed life itself, with its messy joys, sorrows, hungers and contradictions, and the role was sung with all the ardor, intelligence and vocal luster at Houtzeel's command, which was plenty. This was the sort of daring, impassioned performance that can make a career.'' --The Washington Post's review of the concert performance

Product Description

Tragédie lyrique / Stephanie Houtzeel (Armide), Robert Getchell (Renaud), François Loup (Hidraot), William Sharp (Artémidore), Ann Monoyios (Phénice), Miriam Dubrow (Sidonie)... - Opera Lafayette - Ryan Brown, direction

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lully's Armide 6 Nov 2008
By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
The Opera Lafayette is a period ensemble in Washington.D.C. conducted by Ryan Brown that specializes in French Baroque Music. In 2007, the Opera Lafayette realized the highly creative idea of an "Armide project." It presented performance of the two great settings of librettist Philippe Quninault's (1635-1688) setting of "Armide." The first setting is by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632 -- 1687) composed in 1686. It was the last of many collaborations between Lully and Quinault on French Tragedie Lyrique. The second setting of Quinault's libretto was by Gluck in 1776. At the time, Gluck was resident in Paris and reset the Quinault libretto as a deliberate challenge to show he could surpass Lully's then famous score. Until recently it was rare to hear live performances of either version of "Armide." It was the experience of a lifetime to hear both Lully and Gluck at the University of Maryland with Brown. The performance of Lully used a fully professional cast while Brown used student performers from the University of Maryland in Gluck's "Armide".

This new 2-CD recording on Naxos of Lully's "Armide" by Brown and Opera Lafayette was made in conjunction with the live Armide project. The recording features mezzo-soprano Stephanie Houtzeel in the role of Armide and tenor Robert Getchell as Renaud. "Armide" is set in the 11th Century during the first Crusade and tells of the doomed love between the sorceress Armide and the hero Renaud. In the story, Armide seeks to kill Renaud after he has single-handedly freed prisoners Armide's forces have captured during battle. But she is unable to do so because she falls in love with Renaud instead. She then casts a spell on Renaud so that he loves her.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FRENCH CONNECTION 5 Dec 2008
By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Six years and more ago I sent in a review of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as one of my first reviews on this site. At the time I warned any readers that the 17th century was an all but total blank in my knowledge of music. Asking myself what I have done about that since, I find that I have acquired quite a good knowledge of Purcell but remain as ignorant as ever about the rest. In particular, until now the rest of the music of France between the Troubadours and Couperin has been silence to me. Anything I have to say about a performance of Lully's Armide is therefore likely to be significant, if to anyone, only to others in a similar position of trying to improve their knowledge and understanding of this school of music.

This is a scholarly performance, which is not to say a pedantic one. The performing edition, together with an introductory essay, is based on the work of the eminent expert Lois Rosow, although the director himself takes responsibility for editorial cuts, which he lists in detail. I have no difficulty with this in principle, and whatever I may be missing by way of more music, Ryan Brown's reasons seem to me sensible. In particular I cannot see that all these centuries later we should feel any obligation to include in a tragedy of Armide a Prologue extolling the reign of Louis XIV and denouncing Protestantism. I am however intrigued by Lois Rosow's concluding statement that `editorial percussion has been added.' Does this mean all the percussion, or only extra percussion? There is some very effective timpani work at appropriate points, plus some sort of tambourine or the like here and there.

Cuts or no cuts, Lully's Armide is no miniature work. It lasts over 2 hours here, which makes it longer than not just Dido and Aeneas but even than La Boheme.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A budget-priced Armide 8 Nov 2008
By Paul C
Format:Audio CD
While Armide is widely touted as Lully's operatic masterpiece, it has always struck me as a somewhat 'lop-sided' work.

Our hero, Renaud, doesn't even appear until Act 2 and when he does appear he promptly falls asleep for the second half of the act! He is then absent from the next two acts, finally reappearing in the closing act. As a result, we see little of his supposed bravery and valour.

In between there is an entire act (Act 4) that, while attractive enough, adds nothing to the story.

The love affair between Armide and her spellbound suitor - the key element of the story - is touchingly portrayed in Act 5, but all too soon Renaud is snapped out of his prosthetic infatuation and promptly 'does a runner', to leave Armide in mourning. Before we know it the opera is over.

However, the high regard that this opera is held in is justified. Musically this is a high-quality score and Armide's ultimately frustrated passions are well portrayed.

This is the third recording of Armide to be released. Philippe Herreweghe has recorded it twice before and now Opera Lafayette and Ryan Brown bring us this new version on Naxos.

I should start by saying that at a price of around £10 for two CD's, this is of course exceptional value for money.

That value is enhanced by the fact that this is in many respects a good account of the opera, with many positives.

The performance is alert and lively, with no shortage of vitality.

The period-instrument orchestra has a good spring in its step and there is plenty of clarity in the textures it produces.

The cast is good. In particular I felt that Stephanie Houtzeel turns in a sensitive rendition of the title-role.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lully's Armide 1 Nov 2008
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The Opera Lafayette is a period ensemble in Washington.D.C. conducted by Ryan Brown that specializes in French Baroque Music. In 2007, the Opera Lafayette realized the highly creative idea of an "Armide project." It presented performance of the two great settings of librettist Philippe Quninault's (1635-1688) setting of "Armide." The first setting is by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632 -- 1687) composed in 1686. It was the last of many collaborations between Lully and Quinault on French Tragedie Lyrique. The second setting of Quinault's libretto was by Gluck in 1776. At the time, Gluck was resident in Paris and reset the Quinault libretto as a deliberate challenge to show he could surpass Lully's then famous score. Until recently it was rare to hear live performances of either version of "Armide." It was the experience of a lifetime to hear both Lully and Gluck at the University of Maryland with Brown. The performance of Lully used a fully professional cast while Brown used student performers from the University of Maryland in Gluck's "Armide".

This new 2-CD recording on Naxos of Lully's "Armide" by Brown and Opera Lafayette was made in conjunction with the live Armide project. The recording features mezzo-soprano Stephanie Houtzeel in the role of Armide and tenor Robert Getchell as Renaud. "Armide" is set in the 11th Century during the first Crusade and tells of the doomed love between the sorceress Armide and the hero Renaud. In the story, Armide seeks to kill Renaud after he has single-handedly freed prisoners Armide's forces have captured during battle. But she is unable to do so because she falls in love with Renaud instead. She then casts a spell on Renaud so that he loves her.

Armide soon calls upon the forces of hate and hell to free herself of her passion for Renaud but to no avail. Ultimately Renaud is rescued by two of his men and the spell is broken. He leaves Armide. The opera ends in a moment of great fury as Armide sings her aria "The false Renaud." Her enchanted palace literally comes down -- the first time a staging of this type was accomplished in an opera.

Lully's music captures the passion of the story. In early French opera, recitive sections were not clearly separated from arias. In "Armide" recitive and airs flow seamlessly into each other, surrounded in most scenes by musical preludes and especially by dances. (In the live production I saw, the New York Baroque Dance Company performed the dances. With the recording, it is necessary to use one's imagination.) The scenes in "Armide" range from the pastoral, to the military, to love scenes, entertainments, comedy (Act IV, which is cut substantially in this recording) and scenes of passion and anger, as in the appearance of "Hate" and in Armide's concluding air. There are dances throughout.

The highlights of Lully's opera include the lengthy soliloquy of Armide in Act II scene V (at the conclusion of the first CD of this set) in which she abandons her effort to kill Renaud, the love duet between Armide and Renaud in Act V, Scene 1, the Passacaille of Act V Scene 2, and Armide's great solo at the end "La Perfide Renaud."

Listeners who know this music will notice that Brown has made several cuts. Lully's version opened with a long Prologue in praise of Louis XIV which is eliminated from the recording in its entirety. In addition, Brown cut much of Act IV which details the comic misadventures of Renaud's two rescuers. (In the live performance, Brown kept both the Prologue and the entirety of Act IV.)Both in Lully's setting and in Gluck's, Act IV of Quinault's libretto tends to get in the way of the story. With these and other small cuts, this recording remains an outstanding rendition of Lully's great opera.

Both Lully's "Armide" and Gluck's enjoyed long years of success before fading into obscurity. Both operas deserve to be heard, and we are fortunate to live in a time of revived interest in early music of their eras. Listeners who become fascinated with Lully's music should also explore, if it is not already familiar, Minkowski's recording of Gluck's "Armide". Gluck was a reformer in opera. His setting of "Armide" is different in style from his predecessor's, but in some respects it is a throw-back and incorporates elements of Lully's style. "Armide" was Gluck's favorite of his own operas. Those today who know both works can engage in endless discussion of the relative merits of these two great scores. Lully's "Armide" is probably that composer's greatest work.

Listeners who already know or who want to explore an early French operatic masterpiece will love this recording of Lully's "Armide" by Ryan Brown and the Opera Lafayette. Quinault's libretto is not included, but Naxos has made the text and translation available online.

Robin Friedman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 29 July 2014
By Kiwimezzo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
A beautiful performance all round - I couldn't fault it.
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FRENCH CONNECTION 5 Dec 2008
By DAVID BRYSON - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Six years and more ago I sent in a review of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas as one of my first reviews on this site. At the time I warned any readers that the 17th century was an all but total blank in my knowledge of music. Asking myself what I have done about that since, I find that I have acquired quite a good knowledge of Purcell but remain as ignorant as ever about the rest. In particular, until now the rest of the music of France between the Troubadours and Couperin has been silence to me. Anything I have to say about a performance of Lully's Armide is therefore likely to be significant, if to anyone, only to others in a similar position of trying to improve their knowledge and understanding of this school of music.

This is a scholarly performance, which is not to say a pedantic one. The performing edition, together with an introductory essay, is based on the work of the eminent expert Lois Rosow, although the director himself takes responsibility for editorial cuts, which he lists in detail. I have no difficulty with this in principle, and whatever I may be missing by way of more music, Ryan Brown's reasons seem to me sensible. In particular I cannot see that all these centuries later we should feel any obligation to include in a tragedy of Armide a Prologue extolling the reign of Louis XIV and denouncing Protestantism. I am however intrigued by Lois Rosow's concluding statement that `editorial percussion has been added.' Does this mean all the percussion, or only extra percussion? There is some very effective timpani work at appropriate points, plus some sort of tambourine or the like here and there.

Cuts or no cuts, Lully's Armide is no miniature work. It lasts over 2 hours here, which makes it longer than not just Dido and Aeneas but even than La Boheme. Except for the change of disc the work is performed with seamless continuity along its five acts, which is more than one could do with Otello. I suppose the main credit should go to the composer for the sense that this is a mature and developed operatic style, but I give Brown and Rosow some points as well for getting the work into coherent shape. I have seen the plot criticised, but in my own opinion this is a far more coherent and convincing libretto than that of Gluck's later Armide, based on the same basic book by Quinault. My initial reaction was that Lully seems rather pallid compared with Purcell, but repeated hearing has modified this first impression. I will say candidly that I still don't think Lully as powerful a genius as Purcell if this is anything to go by, but Lully is working in the French tragic tradition, the tradition of Corneille and Racine, and not the Shakespearean one. The characters are to some extent stylised `types', whereas with Purcell we are already sensing a different sort of characterisation, well on the way to the full individuality that we associate with Handel and Mozart. Gluck could portray individuality as well as either, but he slipped in and out of the French way of doing things too, even to the extent of combining his two modes slightly uncomfortably in his own Armide.

The other thing that changed my opinion was the actual singing. At first my main impression was of characters who were bien eleves and restrained, but again repeated listening made me aware of the real passion in the vocal expression, all within stylistic limits be it understood. The demons and the personified Hatred are rather orderly, but that is the French convention, and Gluck sticks with this way of treating them. All the singers without exception strike me as excellent, and I welcome the short resumes provided in the liner. Resumes of all but one that is - oh dear, Mr Darren Perry, quel erreur, quelle folie. One thing that put me at my ease right from the outset was that there are no altos, and in particular no male altos, among the large cast of soloists. Indeed, of the four choral altos three are female. A full list of performers is provided, and I found the instrumental list particularly interesting. Yet another eminent group of Early Music specialists, and still they come.

And back I come with a refrain of my own. All my thanks and appreciation to Naxos the irreplaceable.
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