University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Lully: Armide

02/10/2019 1:00 pm
02/10/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This tragédie en musique, first staged in 1686, was the last and most magnificent product of the collaboration between the Italian immigrant composer Jean Baptiste Lully, the father of French opera, and the playwright Phillippe Quinault. Their presentations at the royal court of Louis XIV "The Sun King" at Versailles established the model for baroque music drama in French language. The Lullian model would last for a century, reaching its ultimate development in the operas of Rameau.

Armide is a tragédie lyrique in five acts in the form prescribed in the spoken- word dramas of Corneille. Armide has been recorded several times in the course of the general revival of interest in baroque music in the later twentieth century. On Sunday, March 25, 1990 I presented Armide in an incomplete recording of the work, one that omits the fourth act, released through the French Erato label. The Belgian early music specialist Phillippe Herreweghe directed the Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de la Chappelle Royale. Armide was recorded again in Paris in 2015 for release on a pair of silver discs through another latter day French label Aparte. In this case the opera was in its complete five act form. Christophe Rousset led the period instrument players of Les Talens Lyriques and the chamber chorus of Namur, plus solo singing cast. The Aparte recording went over the air almost exactly one year ago on February 11th.

There is an American recording of Armide made in February, 2007 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on the campus of the University of Maryland at Catonsville. There is in fact an American troupe of period instrument players and singers specializing in the antique French lyric theater repertoire: Opera Lafayette, led by Ryan Brown. Armide was revived again and again at the Paris Opera in the decades after its first production, and with each revival its score was altered. Opera Lafayette departs from the original 1686 version in several places, partly in accordance with the work's own performance history in the eighteenth century. The prologue has been dropped altogether as it had been for the 1761 revival. Naxos released The Tragedy of Armide on two compact discs in 2008.