Rameau: Dardanus

Bernard Richter, Gaëlle Arquez, Benoît Arnould, João Fernandes, Alain Buet, Sabine Deveilhe, Emmanuelle de Negri, Romain Champion, Ensemble Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon
145:13 (2 CDs in a wallet)
Alpha Classics ALPHA 964

Dardanus -first performed 1739 – 26 performances; thoroughly revised and revived 1744 – 22 performances; minor changes and a further revival 1760 – acclaimed a masterpiece and remained in repertoire for 11 years. If at first you don’t succeed…

Needless to say, after all that care the music is absolutely brilliant reaching its zenith in the famous opening of Act IV (Lieux funestes) where Bernard Richter also gives his expressive all. As is usual with Rameau the orchestral writing is superb throughout – I just wish conductors would realise that their added percussion parts in the dances add nothing (but irritate massively, at least in this household). That aside, Ensemble Pygmalion sound as happy as orchestras usually sound with Rameau on the stands. Sadly, the v-word is, as usual, an issue with the singers and I found some of the ensembles, especially, difficult listening.

The booklet is definitely in the ‘must do better’ category. The fancy font that appears from time to time does nothing for legibility; the photographs languish without captions; the main essay is no more than functional; there is no information about the artists; and the translation of the libretto does not always quite achieve English. But what an opera!

David Hansell