Choeur et Musiciens du Louvre/Minkowski
DG Archiv 463 476-2 78'49" & 76'54"
Headed by John Mark Ainsley in the title role, with mainly French
singers in the large cast, this is a superb realisation of one of Rameau's
finest though lesser known operas. It is given here substantially in its
1739 first version, which is superior musically to the drastic later revision,
although hampered by a rash of absurdities in the rather inept libretto with,
for example, too many visitations by a sea monster. There are no reservations
about the music, which moves naturally from arioso to set arias and
choruses, all with the felicitous orchestration for which Rameau is justly
celebrated. It is a tale of tug-of-war between rival lovers (Ainsley and
Laurent Naouri) for Iphise (Veronique Gens), overseen by Venus (Mireille
An astonishing prison scene (imported from the 1744 version) is heightened
by dissonant, chromatic harmonies and an extraordinary bassoon obbligato.
There are two splendid ceremonies, one a pledge of allegiance, the other
a demonstration of magic powers, with sophisticated build up of tension and
excitement, and integrated into the development of the plot, by their sequences
of ariettes, choruses and dances. Dance being an essential component
of 18 C French opera, Dardanus has some thirty ballet movements,
culminating in a final Chaconne which rounds it all off with a fine
display of Rameau's resourceful orchestration.
None of the singing can be faulted and it is a fine achievement by a company
of musicians who have worked together before. The period music orchestral
playing is ever alert and lively or soothing and dreamy as required. This
must be one of the best Rameau recordings now available, masterminded by
a specialist conductor who was responsible for the spectacularly successful
Platee in Paris recently and CD recordings of Lully, Gluck and Rameau's Aricie.
Peter Grahame Woolf