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Format: Audio CD
RAMEAU Hippolyte et Aricie - (Cast) Mark Padmore (ten) Hippolyte; Anna-Maria Panzarella (sop) Aricie; Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo) Phèdre; Laurent Naori (bass bari) Thésée; Eirian James (mezzo) Diana; Gaëlle Mechaly (sop) L'Amour, Female Sailor; Nathan Berg (bass) Jupiter, Pluton, Neptune; Katalin Karolyi (mez) Oenone; Yann Beuron (ten) Areas Mercure; Francois Piolino (ten) Tisiphone; Christopher Josey (ten) Fate I; Matthieu Ikeroart (bar) Fate II; Bertrand Bontoux (bass) Fate III; Mireille Delunsch (sop) High Priestess; Mechaly (Cupid/Sailor Girl); Patricia Petibon (Priestess/Shepherdess); William Christie conducting the Les Arts Florissants
This recording of Hippolyte et Aricie was made in Paris at the Salle Wagram in 1996, following performances the year before at the Palais Garnier.
This Sylvie Bouis-sou's edition, trumps Minkowski/Musiciens du Louvre (Archiv 001572102)'s version in terms of authenticity, as one reviewer already noted, in restoring much but not all recitatives, in an attempt to get at what Rameau wanted before being forced to make concessions for the performance of his first opera. The most significant variation occurs at the end of the work, where conductor William Christie includes some recitative, a short air, and a reprised chorus that aren't in Minkowski. The differences between the two versions are such that it is difficult to follow the Christie version with Minkowski's libretto. This reissue by Warner, however, is without the libretto, which is the greatest downside of this release.
Despite the opera's title, the main protagonists are Theseus and his queen Phaedra, whose guilty passion for her `son' Hippolytus precipitates the tragedy (even though there is a happy ending for the eponymous pair). Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is even more passionate than Dame Janet Baker was on the Decca recording, and particularly impressive in "Cruelle mere des amours" which begins Act 3, an aria into which Rameau poured all his artifices of affecting suspensions and harmonies. Rameau's composing skill is fully evident in this work: the profusion of invention, the unobtrusive contrapuntal skill, the charm and colour of the instrumentation and the freedom allotted to the orchestra. The work's final scene, set in a woodland, is filled with an enchanting atmosphere, ending, after the customary chaconne, with "Rossignols amoureux" (delightfully sung by Patricia Petibon). Anna-Maria Panzarella makes an appealingly youthful Aricia (to whom Rameau allocates surprisingly little on her own), and Mark Padmore is an affecting and lyrical Hippolyte, if not outright perfect, making the most of his despairing Act 4 aria "Ar, faut-il, enc jour, perdre tout ce que j'apos'aime?".
Lorraine Hunt is exceptional as Phèdre, for interpretation, vocal beauty, and agility. Laurent Naouri has a firm lower range, and a refined baritonal timbre for the top notes. Eirian James is able to combine a forward enunciation with a dark tone, and has a strong theatrical sense. The only slight disappointment is Anna-Maria Panzarella. Her tendency to sing ever so slightly flat followed by an adjustment upward after landing on a held note led to vocal problems, which include sluggish movement from note to note and an inability to color or soften the voice.
In all but Panzarella, Christie's Hippolyte et Aricie is as good as or better than Minkowski.
The only quibble with this re-issue, which is an important one, is the lack of libretto.