The remarkable Hypermnestre by Charles- Hubert Gervais is the latest unremembered early 18th-century French opera to be recorded afresh for Glossa, and conducted by György Vashegyi.
Gervais was a contemporary of Campra and Destouches, learning from Lully and paving the way for Rameau and, like Marais and François Couperin, open to the Italianising trends of “les goûts réunis”. A high-quality libretto from Joseph La Font tackles the story of Hypermnestra which proved so popular in the early eighteenth century. The Glossa recording contains both the original fifth act and the major revision of it from 1717 and Vashegyi drives the whole tragedy expertly to its bitter (and not-so-bitter!) end.
Musically, this tragédie lyrique provides powerful opportunities for the trio of leading characters, here taken by Katherine Watson (Hypermnestre), Thomas Dolié (Danaüs, her father) and Mathias Vidal (Lyncée, her betrothed), but they are ably supported by Juliette Mars, Chantal Santon-Jeffery, Manuel Núñez Camelino and Philippe-Nicolas Martin. No French opera of this time would have been complete without a generous helping of choral or instrumental music and Gervais – a master of melody, harmony and orchestration – serves these up in a dazzling set of divertissements and festive set pieces full of dances (including a massive passacaille); all this performed with great stylistic awareness and vivacity by Vashegyi’s Orfeo Orchestra and Purcell Choir.