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Lully, Thésée, Boston Early Music Festival, H. Crook, L. Pudwell, P. O'Dette (June 26, 2007)
Two mythological characters fresh from disastrous romantic liaisons become entangled with one another. The vengeful sorceress Medea, having just gotten murderously even with the unfaithful Jason, falls in love with her later husband's son, Theseus, who has returned to Athens after killing the Minotaur and abandoning Ariadne. (This family history does not get any healthier, since Theseus's son Hippolytus was killed in an accident after he rejected the advances of his stepmother, Phaedra.) As unlikely as the story is for operatic treatment, Handel's later opera Teseo uses a libretto that is basically Quinault's text translated into Italian. After its premiere at St.-Germain-en-Laye in 1675, Thésée was one of Lully's most successful operas, receiving numerous revivals in Paris late into the 18th century. One can actually consult the entire score, from its first printing, online.
Calyx krater (with Medea in her chariot), c. 400 B.C.
Cleveland Museum of Art
The test of a recording's merit is generally in the supporting voices, which here are hit-and-miss, with some strained and pushed sounds, as well as occasional lapses in French pronunciation. Suzie LeBlanc (Cleone) and Aaron Sheehan (Un plaisir and other minor roles), both of whom we have reviewed live in recent years, have pleasant turns. It seems unlikely that this recording, as good as it is, will not be bettered by one conducted by either William Christie or Emmanuelle Haïm (the latter seems a quite likely eventuality). However, as that has not yet happened, this 3-CD set is most welcome, and it is complete, with all of the charming dance music (and a liner essay on the dance music by respected scholar Rebecca Harris-Warwick).
cpo 777 240-2