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Jean Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Operatic Arias – The Artistry of Jélyotte
PlatéeAriette baine: Que ce séjour est agreeable (Act 1, Scene 3) [3.52] … Ariette vive: Quittez nymphes, quittez (Act 1, Scene 5) [2.26] … A l’aspect de ce nuage (Actu 2, Scene 1) [7.56] … Marche pour la danse – Dans cette fête, Mouvement de menuet – Marche pour la danse [3.45]
(Prologue) Thespis: Ariette un peu légère: Charmant Bacchus [2.39]
La Guirlande de Fleurs (Scene 1) Myrtil: Peut-on être à la fois si tendre ... Ariette très vive: Ranimez vous – Musette: Allegreto [7.57]
Castor et Pollux – (1754 version) – Castor: Séjour de l’éternelle paix (Act 4, Scene 5) [4.48]
Naïs – (Act 3, Scene 1) Neptune: Prélude: La jeune nymphe que j’adore … Que l’univers entire … Amour, tut ermines nos maux … Ariette: Je vole où m’appelle ton choix [7.34]
(Act 3, Scene 5) Neptune: Cessez de ravager la terre [2.54]
Les Festes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour – (Act 1, Scene 1) Osiris: Gigue – Air gracieux: Que vous connaissez mal ... Qu’à la voix d’Osiris – Mouvement de sarbande et de loure [6.43]
Dardanus – (1744 version) (Act 4, Scene 1) Dardanus: Lieux funestes [4.59]
Zoroastre (Act 2, Scene 1) Zoroastre: A mes tristes regards [3.45]
Zaïs – (Act 2, Scene 1) Prélude: Charmes des coeurs ambitieux ... Ritournelle – Ariette un peu vive: A mes désirs
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (haute-contre/tenor)
Opera Lafayette Orchestra/Ryan Brown
Rec. University of Maryland, USA, 2006, DDD
Booklet notes in English and French
NAXOS 8.557993 [64.04]

Jean Philippe Rameau was not only the outstanding European musical theorist of his era but also France’s leading 18th century composer. To most music-lovers nowadays he may be best known for his keyboard and chamber works, as well as for being the author of the Traité de l’harmonie, which in 1722 made his name and had great musical impact. However his finest compositions are in dramatic music and include some of the best, most powerful operas of the period between Monteverdi and the appearance of Mozart. As such, this CD is a rather welcome work, and as indicated by its title Operatic Arias, it contains highlights from some of the composer’s most beautiful and imaginative operas.
The work is also called The Artistry of Jélyotte and this is not a coincidence. Pierre de Jélyotte (1713-1797) was a great French opera singer. He possessed a powerful and extremely flexible voice, with a very wide range. His was a tenor’s voice known in French as haute-contre. This is a very high type of tenor voice, popular in 18th century France, which can be similar to the one designated by the English term counter-tenor. There is a difference: haute-contres do not make use of falsetto at the top of his range.
Rameau’s and Jélyotte’s, names are intimately linked, as the latter sang the most important roles in thirteen of the sixteen operas by Rameau, produced during the time the singer was at the Paris Opéra (1733-1755). There are many who attribute the great success of Rameau’s operas to the artistry of Jélyotte, not least one of his librettists, Jean-Louis de Cahusac, who is reputed to have said ‘The art [Rameau’s art] owes its great progress to them [Jélyotte and his colleague the soprano Marie Fell], for without a doubt it is to the possibilities that Mr Rameau saw in their brilliant, flexible voices that opera owes its remarkable pieces with which this illustrious composer has enriched French singing.
Bearing all this in mind, one is to have great expectations of this recording and I am happy to say that it does not disappoint. The chosen pieces are among Rameau’s best, most imaginative works, some of which were rather innovative, as was the case with Platée, a lyrical comedy, the first of its time, for until then comedy had traditionally played little or no part in French opera.
From beginning to end this CD is a thing of beauty. The Opera Lafayette Orchestra, based in the United States and not in France, as the name might suggest, expertly led by its conductor and artistic director Ryan Brown, gives a harmonious, luminous and touchingly lyrical performance of Rameau’s operas. This is particularly true of the extracts from Platée and Dardanus, especially in the final piece, the joyful, light aria from Platée’s Prologue.
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, the haute-contre tenor that steps into Jélyotte’s shoes, has his name and success also closely linked with the music of Rameau. His rare and beautiful voice does justice to his predecessor, displaying a clear, pure vocal line, with a fresh crystalline sound in its highest range. While Fouchécourt does not appear to possess the wide range that was a characteristic of Jélyotte – his voice fades a little in the lower range and has a slightly monotone ring to it, lacking flexibility. He delights the ear with a boyish, almost angelic quality of sound that pleases and makes one think that if angels existed and were able to sing, they would probably sound like this.
Operatic Arias from Rameau’s best operas is a wonderful, well conceived collection, a technically accomplished recording, bringing a welcome revival of Rameau’s dramatic music. A fresh touch is brought to a composer who nowadays is unjustly neglected and an excellent insight into a rare type of voice.
The booklet accompanying the CD is also worth mentioning, as it is unusually well written, with a lot of detail and informative notes about the composer and all the artists. This provides a valuable and interesting read for the listener less familiar with the music of the baroque period in general and Rameau’s operas in particular.
Margarida Mota-Bull

see also review by Göran Forsling



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