Wednesday, 13 February 2008

55. Jean-Baptiste Lully - Armide (1686)
















Recording

Title: Armide
Performers: Collegium Vocale, La Chapelle Royale et al.
Director: Philippe Herreweghe
Year: 1992
Length: 2 hours 30 minutes

Review

Finally something by Lully, but as much as I love him I am still slightly disappointed, why not have Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme or the Divertissement Royal instead of what is quite an insipid opera by Lully Standards?

Lully is all about the pomp and circumstance and there isn't enough of that here, he is never best at vocal work unfortunately. Still there are some prize moments here, and for that this opera is a worthy addition to the list. It is an epic, although I could not find the libretto for it unfortunately, leaving me to guess what was happening from reading a synopsis of the Opera.

Lully is at his best in the instrumental interludes or when a choir comes in allowing him to do his best Sun-King sound. But you kind of keep waiting for these moments through the recitatives and arias, there is nothing of the calibre of Dido's Lament here or anywhere near it. And this is a pity for such a great composer.

Final Grade

8/10

Trivia

From Wikipedia:

Roughly eight decades following Monteverdi's L’Orfeo, Jean-Baptiste Lully produced Armide with his longtime collaborator, playwright Jean-Philippe Quinault. Together they had developed the trag├ędie en musique/trag├ędie lyrique, which served as a new form of opera that combined elements of classical French drama with ballet, the French song tradition and a new form of recitative. Armide was one of Lully’s last operas and is therefore extremely developed in style.

The opera's instrumental overture is divided into two parts, all with the same highly professional sound, as if to accompany the entrance of a highly revered authority. It is in fact, according to the Norton Anthology of Western Music, a “majesty suitable to the king of France, whose entrance into the theater the overture usually accompanied when he was in attendance” (NAWM p. 520). At points it is playful and bouncy, but while always remaining ceremonious. The first section of the overture is in fact slower than the second, which speeds up the rhythm, before returning to the slower pace of the beginning.

The most famous moment in the opera is Act II, scene 5, a monologue by the enchantress Armide, considered “one of the most impressive recitatives in all of Lully’s operas” (NAWM p 520). Armide, accompanied by only a continuo, alternates between glorying in her own power and succumbing to piercing angst. Clutching a dagger, she expresses to us her unyielding desire to kill the knight Renaud, who has foiled her plan to keep captive the knights of the Crusades, whom she had imprisoned for the sake of her own pleasure. Though not orchestrally elaborate, the techniques of dramatic interpretation of rhythm, impressive use of stressing on downbeats, and exaggerated use of rests beautifully complicate this piece.

Chaconne from Armide:

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