With the rise of Romanticism, the topics of opera changed from the mythological fantasy of Baroque operas to the fairytale fantasy which graced the French stage long before Romanticism reached other European nations. Initiated by the Palazzetto Bru Zane, this project is built like a universal fairytale, inspired by Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Bluebeard, and others, as set to music by French composers of the Romantic period, alternating between famous composers such as Offenbach and Rossini and little known masters like Viardot, Silver, and Isouard. This imaginary opera was conceived and transcribed by Alexandre Dratwicki for piano quartet and two singers- a soprano and a mezzo, the roles of which are performed here by Jodie Devos and Caroline Meng.
This is an attractive programme of comparatively rare vocal repertoire. Airs de cour by Charpentier (including verses from Corneille’s Le Cid) and Lambert are interpersed with instrumental movements from Couperin’s Les Nations. Cyril Auvity is an experienced advocate of the haute-contre repertoire and draws on all that experience to engage fully with the texts of these miniature dramas. His tone in the higher register can verge on the harsh, though this is a rare event.
France’s leading young harpsichordist performs works by two masters of the French Baroque. No surprises there, perhaps … but the harpsichordist in question is Jean Rondeau and the album is called Vertigo. It conceives the harpsichord in vividly theatrical terms. Vertigo takes its name from a dramatic, rhapsodic piece by Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer, who, along with Jean-Philippe Rameau, forms the focus of this album. If Rameau (1683–1764) is the better-known composer today, especially admired for such operatic masterpieces as Hippolyte et Aricie and Platée, the younger Royer (1705–1755) was also a major figure in his time, rising to become master of music at the court of Louis XV. Both Rameau and Royer excelled in keyboard music and in works for the stage. As Jean Rondeau says: “These two illustrious composers battled for the top spot at the Opéra.” He describes them as “two magicians, two master architects, amongst the most wildly imaginative and brilliant of their era … Two composers who also tried to capture echoes of grand theatre with the palette offered by their keyboard.