This is a most intriguing CD. I, for one, am not much familiar with operatic work before the later 18th century. On this CD, soprano Veronique Gens does a very nice turn indeed, singing works from Jean-Baptiste Lully to Christoph Willibald Gluck. The "liner notes" place the music on this CD very nicely into historical context (other composers represented on this CD include Andre Campra, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Jean-Joseph Cassanea de Mondonville, Jean-Marie Leclair, and Pancrace Royer). I am familiar with only a handful of these, so this is a venture into "terra incognita."
A note on the orchestra is needed, too. They play extremely well (Les Talons Lyriques, conducted by Christoph Rousset). The Overture to Rameau's Prelude to Act III of "Hippolyte et Aricie" exemplifies their art. It is really well played and spirited. This orchestra itself makes this a worthwhile CD.
A few examples of Gens' singing:
Lully, "Armide," Act II, Scene 5 (1686). She shows a strong, rich voice here. She attacks the work with aplomb. There are some mildly annoying affectations (e.g., little catches or gasps for effect here and there), but not problematic.
Rameau, "Hippolyte et Aricie," Act III, Scene 1 (1733). Again, smoothly sung. Her voice, again, is quite lush.
Gluck, "Armide," Act II, Scene 5 (1777). The lyrics are exactly the same as the Lully cut that I looked at previously. That makes a comparison of these two pieces irresistible! Gens sings this well, too. What is especially interesting to me is the wildly distinct vocal styles, as between Lully's and Gluck's compositions! Lully is obviously writing in an entirely different style. Gluck is Mozartean in his musical style. So, the comparison of styles is most educational to me.
I really enjoyed this CD. I did find some sameness in Gens' singing across the different pieces here, but that does not distract much from the overall quality of this CD. For those interested in earlier styles of vocal music, this will be a nice product to listen to.