University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Lully: Atys

12/04/2022 1:00 pm
12/04/2022 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

There is currently a wealth of historically-informed recorded interpretations on disc of the long-forgotten operas of the French baroque. The entire canon of the operas of the founder of French opera, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1624-87) is now available on CD. Lully's very first tragédie en musique from 1673, Cadmus et Hermione, went over the air on this program on Sunday, June 12th of this year. Lully and his librettist Philippe Quinault would go on to create a dozen more such lyric stageworks to please the "Sun King' Louis XIV and his court. That brand new Cadmus was released in 2021 through Chateau de Versailles Spectacles.

The recording of Lully's Atys (1676) that you will hear today comes from a staged revival of this work in Paris way back in 1987, the three hundredth anniversary year of Lully's death. The production at the Opéra-Comique was videotaped, showing how the costuming imitated seventeenth century fashion. The menfolk all wore massive curly perukes. The audio part of this production was reissued on CD in 2019. The music was performed in splendid "period" style by the singers and players of Les Arts Florissants under William Christie's direction. Christie and the ensemble he founded marked its fortieth anniversary with this reissue of Atys on silver disc through French Harmonia Mundi. This old recording has stood the test of time. Reviewer Barry Brenesal praised it upon its initial release back in 2012 for Fanfare magazine. Another Fanfare reviewer, James A. Altena, wrote about the video reissue (Fanfare, March/April 2022), reminding us " hardly need be said that William Christie is a complete and authoritative master of French baroque style, eliciting singing and playing of great polish and beauty from his choral and orchestral forces."