> Choral and Song
Les Arts Florissants: "Le Jardin de Monsieur Rameau"
With Skorka, Renard, Mazzucato; Wilder, Sicard, C. Costanzo; Les Arts Florissants, W. Christie. Texts and translations. Les Arts Florissants Editions B00HSVEE6A
The vocal academy Le Jardin des Voix is recognized as an important training ground for young singers, in addition to serving as feeder for its illustrious parent group, Les Arts Florissants. Founder William Christie celebrates the 2013 class of the academy with a CD presentation of the six vocalists in a program of French Baroque music. As in the new label's first offering, Handel's Belshazzar, an evocative story — this time by novelist Adrien Goetz — is included in the handsome, ecologically-friendly CD package.
The recital's repertoire ranges widely in atmosphere and emotion and has been assembled imaginatively by the group's associate music director, Paul Agnew, to highlight the singers' solo and ensemble skills while providing a lovely musical flow. Dance movements, storm scenes, changing instrumental textures and a variety of comic and serious pieces are drawn from such well-known works as Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie and Les Fêtes d'Hébé, as well as Montéclair's neglected Jephté, Gluck's little-known comic opera L'Ivrogne Corrigé and obscure works by Dauvergne and Racot de Grandval.
One particular delight is Grandval's solo cantata "Rien du tout," a self-conscious song in the vein of Strozzi's "L'Astratto" and Cesti's "Aspettate! adesso canto," in which the singer tries out various pieces (in this case well-known works by Clérambault and Montéclair), mocks their triteness and tosses them aside. Mezzo-soprano Emilie Renard's light touch is perfect, as she weighs the merits of brilliant, tragic or chromatic styles (all illustrated captivatingly), sings the audience to sleep, then abruptly awakens them before skipping off with a final allegro.
An actual sleep scene is one of the excerpts from Dauvergne's Vénitienne, sung with elegance by bass Cyril Costanzo, after rollicking through a drinking air and singing through a thunderstorm with firm, clear tone. Soprano Daniela Skorka is particularly effective in the captive Iole's monologue from Dauvergne's Hercule Mourant, while baritone Victor Sicard makes the most of Silvandre's airs and recitatives from Campra's Europe Galante.
In "Quels doux concerts!" from Hippolyte et Aricie, and the climactic aria "Quel funeste coup," from L'Europe Galante, contralto Benedetta Mazzucato shows flexibility and a more controlled top range than either Skorka or Renard. In addition, the luscious playing from the strings echoes and strengthens Mazzucato's warmth and expressiveness.
The fine tenor Zachary Wilder brings heroic declamation and Italianate fioritura to "Hâtons-nous," from Dardanus, and in duets from this opera and Les Fêtes d'Hébé, Mazzucato and Wilder nearly steal the show with soft and melting phrases of great delicacy.
Ensemble moments are delicious, especially the lively extracts from L'Ivrogne Corrigé, interwoven with two bizarre vocal canons by Rameau, and the playing from the professionals of Les Arts Florissants is exemplary.
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