The latest in Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel’s “reinvigorations” of French operatic music from the Baroque and beyond for Glossa is Jean-Philippe Rameau’s 1747 Les Fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour, a ballet heroïque in a prologue and three entrées, the whole work designed, when first created, to comprise a complete theatrical spectacle. Music for dancing – as befits a ballet – is given a prominent role and Rameau is able to create new orchestral sonorities, especially in the ballets figurés which encouraged the author to compose especially expressive symphonies and to give the choruses – even a double-chorus – an integral role in the action. Added to this are supernatural effects, and plots for the entrées which explored the then uncommon world of Egyptian mythology (including a musical depiction of the flooding of the River Nile). In his vocal music Rameau deftly switches between the Italianizing style and the French mode of expression current in the mid-18th century, all of which allows the team of vocal soloists – led by the three sopranos Chantal Santon-Jeffery, Carolyn Sampson and Blandine Staskiewicz – to demonstrate their accomplished talents. Overseen by the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles, and with a descriptive booklet from Thomas Soury, this new recording is an important addition to the Rameau catalogue – the more so in the 250th anniversary year of the composer’s death. It brings to life one of Rameau’s finer, if underrated, compositions, and a dramatic work written on the cusp of important reforms in opera.
Rameau, Jean-Philippe: Les fêtes de l´hymen et de l´amour