Charpentier – Les Arts florissants
Idyle en musique
CAST: La Paix: Jill Feldman, La Musique: Agnès Mellon, La Discorde: Gregory Reinhart, La Poésie: Catherine Dussaut, L’Architecture: Guillemette Laurens, La Peinture: Dominique Visse, Un Guerrier: Philippe Cantor
Les Arts Florissants
William Christie, conductor
Harmonia Mundi, 1982, 2004
Les Arts Florissants is a short laudatory and allegorical opera written by Marc-Antoine Charpentier between 1685 and 1686 for the court of Versailles. Despite the lack of any plot, it celebrates the glory of Louis XIV through the personification of Peace, vainly opposed by Discord, and of the most important Arts of his reign. Les Arts Florissants are often cited with another opera by Charpentier with similar topic and aim, Les Plaisirs de Versailles. William Christie recorded this one too.
Perhaps it is for the stereotyped theme that this is not the best example of Baroque music and some impatience and boredom prevail in the end, despite William Christie’s fine direction of the prestigious orchestra (with the same name of the opera). The atmosphere is languid, dreamy, even the Furies are overwhelmed by the general laxity. Maybe it is the reason why the best character is the “bad” one (La Discorde), sung here by the talented Gregory Reinhart. The Arts and Peace have rather insipid roles, to which even the occasional virtuosity cannot add some colour. This is a pity, because the singers are all good: Agnès Mellon (La Musique) is dreamy and ethereal, Catherine Dussaut (La Poésie) is lively and lovely, Guillemette Laurens (The Architecture) is majestic. Only Dominique Visse (La Peinture) is clumsy and imprecise. As for Jill Feldman (La Paix), she is perhaps too weak in the beginning, but in the end she is fair enough.
I would make clear that, although I did not appreciate this opera, I recognize and appreciate the intent with which it was realized, because at least it lets you know what kind of music the most sumptuous court of the XVII century liked to listen.