The verse of the Greek lyric poet Anacreon was popular in 18th
France. It was graceful, refined and celebrated love and wine.
Something about this must have appealed to Rameau because he
wrote two different one-act operas called Anacréon
The second of them has a text by Pierre-Joseph Bernard who wrote
the libretto for Castor et Pollux
first performed in 1757 as part of the opéra-ballet Les
Surprises de l'Amour
Les Surprises de l'Amour
had a rather complicated history.
It consisted of a prologue and three acts, each a complete opera
in itself. It was first performed in 1748 in Madame de Pompadour's
private theatre. When it was revived in 1757, the prologue was
removed as it was no longer topical; it was in the prologues
that librettos tended to address the sponsors of the opera. This
left Les Surprises de l'Amour
with just two acts. It needed
a further act and this was where Anacréon
in. One of the existing acts was replaced by Les Sibarites
that Les Surprises de l'Amour
of 1757 was very different
from the 1748 original.
Pierre-Joseph Bernard's libretto for Anacréon
to have been around for some time and may date from Bernard's
first collaboration with Rameau in 1737 (on Castor et Pollux
Similarly Rameau's music possibly dates from a few years earlier
than 1757, so Anacréon
may simply have been shuffled
into the first suitable slot available.
The plot has little to do with Anacréon's power as poet.
It deals with the issue of whether wine and love can coexist.
It opens with a feast at the house of Anacréon (Thierry
Félix). After choruses in praise of Bacchus, the priestesses
of Bacchus and the Maenads enter. They break a statue of Cupid
and abduct Anacréon's mistress Lyrcoris (a spoken role).
Left alone the old poet falls asleep and is awakened by a storm. He hears a child
(Annick Massis) crying in distress and Anacréon takes pity on him, thinking
him a slave boy. The child tells Anacréon that Lycoris has been abandoned
by a lover who has devoted too much time to Bacchus. Anacréon realises
his own guilt. It dawns on him that the child is Cupid and he vows to give up
everything if Lycoris is returned. Cupid reunites Anacréon and Lycoris
and makes a reconciliation with Bacchus.
This recording is taken from a live performance which was originally issued in
1997 on Archiv Production (4492112). When it was new Nicholas Anderson cautiously
that William Christie's recording from 15 years earlier was still excellent.
have brought the recording out at super-budget price so there is no need to worry
- it is definitely worth getting.
Bernard's libretto gives Rameau opportunities for producing a lively and varied
score which includes choruses to Bacchus, dances for Les Suivantes de l'Amour
a brilliant storm, which includes a reminiscence of Vivaldi's Four Seasons
Rameau creates something of a thematic unity in the piece. The opening revelry
is bound together by a repeating chorus from the guests and uses music from the
. Music from the ritournelle
also recurs in
Cupid's aria 'Avant ce jour
Annick Massis makes a charming and appealing Cupid and Véronique Gens
is notable as the Priestess of Bacchus. Thierry Félix, in the title role,
seems to sing under the note occasionally but is otherwise fine. Rodrigo del
Pozo acquits himself well in the small role of Agathocle.
Minkowski and his ensemble give a lively performance, with the different strands
to the music being strongly characterised. The acoustic seems to add a little
boom to the sound, but your ear soon accustoms itself to this.
The companion work on the disc is the cantata Le Berger fidèle
It was on these cantatas that Rameau cut his teeth and this one appeared just
five years before his operatic debut. It was first performed in 1728. In three
arias linked by recitative, it depicts the grief of the shepherd Mirtil for his
beloved Amaryllis. And it receives a beautiful and profoundly moving performance
from Véronique Gens.
The booklet contains an informative article, detailed track-listing and synopsis;
the full libretto of Anacréon
(but not Le Berger fidèle
is available from Brilliant's web site, but this contains only the original French
with no translation.
This is a highly recommendable disc, especially at super-budget price. The performances
are such that anyone will surely want to acquire the disc, but if you are new
to Rameau's output then this makes a strong and affordable place to start.
see also review by Mark
Sealey of the re-release on ArkivMusic