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La Gens

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Véronique Gens, Tragédiennes, Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset
(released June 6, 2006)
We have reviewed Baroque opera releases that feature Véronique Gens, including Rameau and Lully operas with Marc Minkowski, but she has also been branching out into music from other periods, including her first Mélisande in Berlin in 2004. Following on the successful Handel CD that Christophe Rousset made with Sandrine Piau, reviewing their collaborative career, Gens and Rousset teamed up for this equally superlative recording of arias and orchestral excerpts. Made with Les Talens Lyriques, it is an exceptionally fine survey of the famous and the obscure. Her voice has more heft than the stereotypical baroqueux soprano, a certain dark grain appropriate for the sorceress roles, but she is still capable of breathtaking legereté, which suits her dialogue with flute rossignols in an aria by Pancrace Royer.

The theme indicated by the title of the disc, Tragédiennes, is roles for great operatic actresses in the Baroque period. Some of the choices are lead roles for operas that La Gens recorded at the start of her career, but for which she did not sing the lead role. Her rendition of Lully's Armide, the famous murder monologue and evocation of La Haine, is gripping, and Télaïre's Tristes apprêts from Rameau's Castor et Pollux is suave (if a little on the fast side). Instead of one of Aricie's airs from Hippolyte et Aricie, Gens gives us a powerful reading of Phèdre's Cruelle mère des amours. Besides two Gluck excerpts, the remaining examples of the 12 vocal pieces are from obscure operas by Campra, Cassanéa de Mondonville, Royer, and Leclair, all of them welcome. The orchestral pieces are a beautifully played selection of overtures, passacailles and chaconnes, and dance pieces. The scholarly notes by Jean Duron, Directeur scientifique of the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, are a bonus.

Virgin Classics 00946 346762 2 9

Véronique Gens, Mio ben teco il tormento piu dolce (Eurydice's lament
from Luigi Rossi's Orfeo), L'Arpeggiata Ensemble, Christina Pluhar

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