Saturday, November 30, 2019

Barihunk trio touring Lully's rarely performed Isis

Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Philippe Estèphe and Aimery Lefèvre
Lully’s rarely performed Isis will be performed in Paris, Versailles and Vienna with a barihunk trio under the baton of French baroque specialist Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. The cast includes Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Jupiter, Aimery Lefèvre as Hierax and Philippe Estèphe as Neptune. They'll be joined by Eve-Maud Hubeaux as Isis, Bénédicte Tauran as Juno, Ambroisine Bré as Iris, Cyril Auvity as Apollo and Fabien Hyon as Mercury.

The opera is best remembered today for the "Peoples from Frozen Climes" music, whose  tremolos inspired the ‘Frost Scene’ in Purcell’s more widely performed King Arthur. Isis has been neglected because the five-act opera gets off to a slow start in the first two acts with lengthy dialogue before it kicks into gear for the final three acts.

Christophe Rousset talks about Isis:

The opera deals with the jealously and conflict between Jupiter, Juno and Isis. The two women love the same man, wth Juno opting for e a violent course of revenge and Io lamenting her loss. 

The opera was written for Louis XIV in order to celebrate the Sun King’s reign. However, the libretto's tale of Jupiter pursuing the nymph Io, only reminded audiences of the king's affairs with his mistresses, Madame de Montespan and Mademoiselle de Ludres. The French immediately associated Juno with Madame de Montespan and Io with Madame de Ludres.

The opera will be performed at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées on December 6, at the Opéra Royal in Versailles on December 10 and the Théâter an der Wien on February 22.

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