Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on 12 October 2015
I bought this cheap on Marketplace because although I love Rameau's keyboard works and want to know the operas better, I suspected that despite its enthusiastic reviews, it would suffer from the usual expectation and tolerance of dreadful, weedy, throaty, constricted non-voices murdering the music. And indeed so it proved; the singing here is dire: Ragon is an embarrassment as Platée - give me Sénéchal's very French but so cultivated tones any day rather than his bleating - and the other strangulated, tremolo-ridden, weak-tea tenor, Guy de Mey, is hardly any better; just sample his first aria, CD1, track 3 and giggle at the nasty sound he makes. I wonder that Jennifer Smith was ever able to make a career but having heard her awful traversal of Fauré's songs I now understand why she retreated to recording Baroque opera where nobody seems to notice screeching, wobbling, rudimentary French or aspirated divisions. The bass has been plucked from the usual fruffly-fruffly crowd with no resonance but lots of "funny" inflections.
Furthermore, I have never accounted myself in the least politically correct but the basis of the plot is cruel and offensive to modern sensibilities: it revolves around mocking the idea that the King of the Gods could ever fall for the water-nymph Platée because she is so vain - OK, not nice - and ugly; ha-ha. Michel Sénéchal at least made us sympathise with her which in a way makes it worse as her humiliation is the climax of the tale.
The orchestral playing is of course vinegary and clipped; they scrape away energetically and at least sound energised. The cuckoos' and frogs' choruses are fun; they redeemed a few seconds of this entertainment. The new bargain issue offers no libretto but there is a synopsis.
I put this straight on the give-away pile. Goodness knows what the five-star puffers are hearing but I kindly request them please to form an orderly queue in order to bestow their outraged negative votes upon this review.