The playing and singing of Hickox’s own orchestra and chorus are always mindful of stylistic matters, crisp and airy in the sensuous dance music, urgent and theatrical (in the best sense) in passionate sections of the score, which Hickox holds together in exemplary manner (Gramophone Magazine). Hickox conducts with a fine sense of theatre, as well as an aptly Gluckian restraint…Palmer is remarkable at her best, and her duet with Rolfe Johnson ('Armide, vous m'allez quitter') is memorably done (International Record Review).
Twenty-four years ago, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants premièred Jean-Baptiste Lully s opera Atys at the Opéra Comique in Paris. It was a smashing success, and marked a pivotal moment in the history of period performance practice. Christie became a tireless champion of the music of Lully and helped rehabilitate the composer s once stodgy reputation. In Armide, the tragédie en musique (a genre that Lully and his librettist Quinault jointly invented) reaches its peak of emotional and musical expression. Robert Carsen s highly acclaimed 2008 production of Armide at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées rekindled interest in French Baroque music. On this new video from FRA Musica, filmed at the Château de Versailles, Carsen and stage director Jean-Claude Gallotta present an opulent and powerful vision of Lully s poignant masterpiece.
For any enthusiast of Baroque music, the production of Lully's Armide at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, directed by William Christie and staged by Robert Carsen, was an exceptional event. The last and most successful collaboration between Lully and his librettist Quinault, Armide is the ideal of the genre as desired by Louis XIV: a tragic opera that achieves the perfect fusion of music, song and dance. William Christie leads the orchestra and chorus of Les Arts Florissants and a dazzling cast. Stephanie D’Oustrac is the imperious sorceress Armida, overcome by the violence of a forbidden passion.
This superb recording of the compositions of Lully for the court of Louis XIV is almost perfect in delivery; evoking the sophistication, wit, grandeur, humor that would be required to entertain the most demanding of monarchs amidst the most sophisticated court in Europe. The character of Lully is fascinating. Lully was an Italian actor, dancer and musician who becomes the central creative force in music theatre in the court of the Sun King. However it is the flawless music that is contained in this recording that should be heard. With use of period instruments William Christie and Les Arts Florissants paint a range of compositions from various operas and periods in Lully's career in the court of the Sun King.
There are quite a few French Baroque ballet and opera samplers on the market, perhaps because theses repertories, with their arcane textual and musical conventions and their unfamiliar genres, are thought to be rather inaccessible for general listeners in complete works or large chunks of them. The reconstructions of William Christie and others, including this disc's conductor, Sigiswald Kuijken, have shown that equal parts of imagination and musicality can go a long way toward making the operas of the French Baroque come alive, and the repertoires of virtuoso singers are beginning to reflect this.