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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Lully: Proserpine

01/27/2013 1:00 pm
01/27/2013 4:30 pm


Host Keith Brown writes:

In past programming I offered a long series of operas of the French baroque, as recordings of them became available. The great innovator of French baroque opera was not a Frenchman by birth, but an Italian from Florence whose name originally was Giovanni Battista Lulli, francophied into Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-87).

Many of Lully's tragedies lyriques have gone over the air in this series. For those "lyric tragedies" Lully and his regular librettist Quinault presented their patron king Louis XIV with spectacular staged versions of stories derived from classical mythology or chivalry.

Proserpine (1680) follows that pattern, which always included sprightly ballet sequences. Lully and the king himself would take part in the dancing.

French baroque specialist Hervé Niquet founded his ensemble Le Concert Spirituel in 1987 as a spinoff of a production of Lully's Atys (1676) given in observance of the three hundredth anniversary of the composer's death. In 2006-7 Niquet and his period instrumentalists recorded Proserpine in the hall of the Opera Royal in the palace at Versailles. Eleven vocal soloists and a choir took part in the musical proceedings.

The Spanish label Glossa put Proserpine out in 2008 in a two-CD package. About it reviewer Barry Brenesal wrote, "If anyone can make a case for this is Niquet. The energy, precision and rhythmic subtlety he has brought to a number of other recordings of French baroque operatic and sacred music is fully in evidence. His cast in general is both familiar from his previous albums and very good..." (Fanfare, Mar/Apr, 2009).