Jean Baptiste Lully’s final work for the stage is Acis et Galatèe, an opera in three acts and a prologue to a libretto by Jean Galbert de Campistron, inspired in turn by the legend of Acis and Galatea, depicted in of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
After years during which Lully composed a large number of lyric tragedies, the composer created his final work as a heroic pastorale in which he combined the human and the fantastical, the noble and the quotidian – all on the same stage.
Lully was a past master at seamlessly weaving arias, chouses, and dances into a continuous tapestry of music and text, in which the voice reigned supreme.
The shepherd Acis loves the nymph Galatea, who is also loved by the cyclops Polyphème. She rejects the monster, and in a jealous rage he kills Acis. The god Neptune then intervenes and Acis is brought back to life and transformed into a river.
Lully’s music still offers the stately quality of many of his tragic operas, combined with tuneful arias and choruses.
Choir and Orchestra of the Maggio conducted by Federico Maria Sardelli.
Director: Benjamin Lazar
Choreography: Gudrun Skamletz
Scenic Design: Adeline Caron (sets); Alain Blanchot (costumes); Christophe Naillet (lighting)
Jean François Lombard – Acis
Elena Harsányi – Galatèe
Luigi De Donato – Polyphème
Sebastien Monti – Apollon, Télème, Priest of Junon
Guido Loconsolo – Neptune
Mark van Arsdale – Comus, Tircis
Valeria La Grotta – Diane, Naïade, Scylla,
Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli – L’Abondance, Aminte, Naïade
Francesca Longari – Dryade
Davide Piva – Sylvain
Much as I would like to endorse the efforts of the artists involved in this worthy project, I find myself obliged to confess I was immensely disappointed by the singing of most all participants, who, with the exception of tenor Jean François Lombard appeared to be unfamiliar with the performance practices of the French Baroque. Most of the cast displayed an Italian sound, heavy on vibrato and seemed to be uninformed about the ornaments that make the music of Lully come to life.
The production would have looked fine in a conservatory workshop environment, but on the stage of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino looked pieced together on a budget.
For a more satisfying rendition of this gem of Lully I would recommend the Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre Archive recording, with Jean-Paul Fouchécourt. Veronique Gens and Laurent Nouri in the three leading roles.
Rafael de Acha (c) 2023
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