University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Acante et C├ęphise, ou La sympathie

11/26/2023 1:00 pm
11/26/2023 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Conductor Alexis Kossenko will tell you up front: "It is strange that such an extraordinary work should have languished in almost complete obscurity for 270 years, even while Rameau was regaining his rightful place in the pantheon of French music." The 1996 published score of Jean Philippe Rameau's Acante et Céphise, ou La sympathie (1751) had to wait almost a quarter of a century for recorded performance under Kossenko's direction.

Rameau lavished his finest music on this pastorale héroique, which was a lighter-weight sort of operatic entertainment at the end of the era of the French baroque. The instrumentation in particular is quite progressive and brilliantly scored. The overture aims at the symphonic. The dance numbers are so tuneful and inventive, and the duets for the two "sympathetic" lovers are so charming. All of this Rameau threw together quickly on commission to celebrate a royal birth, ending in a chorus of "Long live the line of our kings!"

This spectacular theatrical entertainment ran for a dozen or so performances before being simply discarded. It vanished into oblivion, until Kossenko led the period instrumentalists of Les Ambassadeurs/La Grande Ecurie and the Singers of the Center for Baroque Music at Versailles in the world premiere recording of this jewel of the French baroque. It was made in 2020 for CD release through the French Erato record label. Curiously, the "period" baroque ensemble heard here is remarkably large--maybe sixty players--for the eighteenth century unusual, perhaps, but the Paris Opera did indeed maintain a big orchestra in those days. The sound Les Ambassadeurs make is quite impressive. I hope Acante et Céphise will make for you a more-than-pleasant prelude to the winter holiday season.