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Rameau - Zoroastre / Padmore · Berg · Mechaly · Panzarella · Lecroart · Bazola · Bonnet · Revidat · Les Arts Florissants · Christie
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While Freemasonry's secrecy has always aroused distrust, its enlightened principles and belief in virtue, liberty, fraternity, and equality have attracted large numbers of intellectuals and artists; one of its most famous adherents was Mozart. However, his opera The Magic Flute was not the first to be inspired by its teachings but was preceded in 1749 by Rameau's Zoroastre. Its initial reception was so cool that Rameau and his librettist, Louis de Cahusac (a prominent Mason) undertook extensive revisions. The new version was produced--by coincidence or fate?--in 1756, the year of Mozart's birth, and became a great success. The opera is based on the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness, enlightenment and ignorance, personified by Zoroastre, the Persian religious reformer, and Abramane, an ambitious sorcerer, servant of the Evil Spirit. The human element (strengthened in the second version) is represented by two princesses, rivals for the Bactrian throne and Zoroastre's love; since one of them is in league with Abramane, the outcome is not in doubt. As in the Magic Flute, the music's the thing, and it is great, creating character, atmosphere and contrast, painting almost visible images of disasters, ceremonies, and celebrations. The vocal writing is extremely difficult, florid, wide in tonal and expressive range; the tenor and soprano parts lie extremely high, the basses' extremely low. Secco and accompanied recitatives melt into each other and into meltingly beautiful lyrical and stirringly dramatic arias and ensembles. But perhaps it is the choruses, underlining, supporting, and commenting on the action, and the orchestral sections, including many wonderful ballets, that are most impressive. Rameau uses the instruments to evoke light and shade, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, juxtaposing and combining winds and strings for utmost color and contrast, and the players and choristers do full justice to his demands. Among the soloists, the sopranos' often unvibrated tone tends to get shrill; the men are all superb; Padmore stands out in the punishingly difficult role of Zoroastre. --Edith Eisler
- Product Dimensions : 5 x 5.75 x 0.75 inches; 9.33 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Alliance
- SPARS Code : DDD
- Date First Available : January 19, 2007
- Label : Alliance
- ASIN : B00006F1PG
- Number of discs : 3
- Best Sellers Rank: #394,657 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is not the first time the opera has appeared on disc. Twenty years ago, Sigiswald Kujiken and La Petite Bande recorded it for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Though that version (not currently available) was both excellently played and sung, it was never completely satisfactory. Its remote beauty was never very convincing as drama. Kujiken was obviously far more at home with the ethereal music of the good spirits than with the rowdiness of the demons. Christie, on the other hand, is absolutely gripping and gives us an all-round vision of the opera. By my count this is his ninth recording of a stage work by Rameau and this depth of experience certainly shows here, right from the opening bars, another of Rameau's innovations since he discarded the traditional prologue in favour of an overture illustrating the concepts behind the opera. Pounding chords representing both a thunderstorm and Abramane's oppressive hold over the people of Bactria give way to luminous music evoking the liberation and enlightenment Zoroastre will bring.The listener is immediately drawn into the drama by the muscular playing of Les Arts Florissants, who manage to combine a sense of forward propulsion with alertness to every orchestral detail. Christie's reading is grittier, never afraid to sacrifice a little smoothness for the sake of theatricality. This is seen to best effect in Act Four, where Abramane conjures up demons and the spirit of vengeance in order to destroy his hated rival. In Christie's hands, this powerful scene with its weird harmonies is as vivid as Rubens' painting of the Last Judgement on the cover. The same grittier approach applies to the young, mostly unknown cast. One of the other problems with the Kujiken recording was that because they were both sweet-toned it was difficult to tell the two rival soprano princesses apart. That doesn't happen here, not that the singing of Gaelle Mechaly as Erinice or Anna Maria Panzarella as Amelite is not beautiful and, when necessary, sweet, but you really hear the bitterness and torment in Erinice's voice and the determination in Amelite's. Mark Padmore is equally good as the ardent visionary Zoroastre, proving that the cruelly high writing for "haute contre" does not necessarily make for an effeminate hero. Bass Nathan Berg clearly relishes playing the evil Abramane, injecting the role with a mixture of gleeful malevolence and youthful dynamism. Christie also helps the drama along by shifting a few of the dances and arias to an appendix. Highly recommended to all lovers of French opera. A spectacular recording in every sense of the word.
Many will not know this great work and it has only been recorded once [?] before, correct me if I am wrong, and that was in the 1970s. So this recording will be welcomed by all lovers of the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau. What we have here is the revised [by the composer] 1756 version of the work, which featured a number of changes/improvements to acts 2, 3 and 5.
The cast of this recording is ideal and it features some well known names in the world of French Baroque music, namely: Mark Padmore, Nathan Berg, Gaëlle Méchaly and the wonderful Anna-Maria Panzarella. The tessitura of the voices is unusual. Rameau features one haute-contre in the role of Zoroaster himself, very stylishly sung by Mark Padmore. All the other men's roles, five in all, are for basses. The two female roles, Amélite and Érinice are sung by sopranos. Zoroastre is always out on his own, with a voice somewhat between that of the other men and the two ladies.
The chorus, which has some significant music is, as with all Les Arts Florissants recordings, very well balanced and not to large or too small.
The orchestra of Les Arts Florissants is large here. Rameau required 2 flutes, 4 oboes, 2 clarinets, 4 bassoons (surely Rameau's favourite woodwind instrument!), 2 horns, various percussion, strings and basso continuo. Rameau gives the orchestra a lot to do and, as with all of Rameau's operas, the orchestra plays almost continuously throughout the work.
Zoroastre has associations with Freemasonry and in some ways it is similar to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in its depiction of the struggle between good and evil. The work is powerful it is one of Rameau's finest achievements. I only hope that Les Arts Florissants revisits this work soon (this CD recording, released in 2002, was the last recording made for the now hapless ERATO by William Christie and his ensemble), it is my hope that Les Arts Florissants under the direction of maestro William Christie, or, perhaps, Mr. Paul Agnew, makes a DVD recording of this great work.
This Zoroastre recording is one of the finest recordings of the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau I've ever heard.
Top reviews from other countries
This particular opera has the usual William Christie touch, he is well tuned in to Rameau in my opinion and his soloists, chorus and orchestra all sing/play with a beautiful tone and colour, phrasing everything quite enchantingly.
The presentation is of course up to the usual Erato standard with a comprehensive booklet including and essay and libretto. Highly recommended!
2ème obstacle, l'interprétation de W. Christie qui semble confondre XVIIIème et XVIIème siècles: le chef nous déclame son Rameau comme du Lully et, ses chanteurs s'intégrant parfaitement à cette conception grandiloquente, l'on est heureux pour tous que le ridicule ne tue pas. Même les danses purement instrumentales paraissent désespérément figées et, quand l'on songe à la manière dont un J.Cl. Malgoire aurait pu faire vivre les merveilleuses couleurs orchestrales de Rameau, l'on se demande pourquoi ce génial interprète est presque banni des studios d'enregistrement alors que les pompeux 'Arts Florissants' se bâtissent une discographie exponentielle.
Reste que les opéras de Rameau ne sont pas légion au disque et que si vous voulez vous faire une idée de 'Zoroastre', vous devrez pratiquement en passer par là. D'où nos trois étoiles pour une interprétation qui dans l'absolu n'en mériterait pas plus de deux.