Rameau, Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour, C. Santon-Jeffery, C. Sampson, B. Staskiewicz, R. van Mechelen, Le Concert Spirituel, H. Niquet
(released on October 28, 2014)
Glossa GCD921629 | 113'36"
S. Bouissou, Jean-Philippe Rameau (Fayard, 2014)
Hervé Niquet did not use the Soury edition for this recording, made last February at the Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles, but a version created by Fannie Vernaz (Les Éditions des Abbesses) for the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, which sponsored the performances. Niquet's ensemble, Le Concert Spirituel, makes beautiful sounds: sweet flutes, brilliant trumpets and timpani in the finale, and avian piccolos in the birdsong scene that concludes the first entrée, as well as two musettes, or bagpipes, in the dances of the Egyptian shepherds in the final entrée.
The cast is led by the piping, crystalline soprano of Chantal Santon-Jeffery, who takes the parts of both the Amazon princess Orthésie, who leads that birdsong scene, and the triumphant Orie in the final entrée. Soprano Carolyn Sampson has several excellent turns, as Cupid and Memphis, Canope's beloved nymph in the middle entrée. Two haute-contres, the very high French tenor, are required, and Reinoud Van Mechelen and Mathias Vidal are valiant if not quite ideal. The recording makes a case for the ear to go with the astute booklet essay by Benoît Dratwicki, artistic director of the CMBV, which claims that Cahusac and Rameau likely thought of this work as "the prototype for a complete theatrical spectacle, where verse, dance, music, and decoration together add up to a coherent and diverting entity for the audience."
Washingtonians can hear a rare live performance of this work this evening, presented by Opera Lafayette in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (October 6, 7:30 pm).