BBC Music Magazine - - Opera Reviews -

Les Ho­races

Judith van Wan­roij, Cyrille Dubois, Julien Dran, Jean-sébastien Bou;

Les Chantres du Cen­tre de musique baroque de Ver­sailles; Les Talens Lyriques/christophe Rous­set

Aparté AP 185 85:43 mins (2 discs) Though widely char­ac­terised as Mozart’s in­fe­rior, Antonio Salieri had the gifts and courage to rad­i­cally re-think French tragic opera. Les Ho­races is the sec­ond such work of Salieri’s Christophe Rous­set has brought to the con­cert stage, and his con­duct­ing bal­ances the score’s raw­ness against the seam­less­ness – so­los into ensem­bles, sin­fo­nias into fran­tic cho­ruses – with which Salieri de­fied French con­ven­tions.

The in­stru­men­tal and choral num­bers could be from 50 years later: an epic over­ture ex­plodes the bound­aries of the form; stir­ring fan­fares and cho­ruses call for rev­o­lu­tion; strings and wood­winds cut and thrust like the pro­tag­o­nists on stage. Rous­set’s fierce en­ergy and mu­si­cal in­tel­li­gence un­leashes the fire, colours and grandeur of Salieri’s drama. But the dearth of lyri­cism in this opera stymies solo singers and the cre­ation of char­ac­ter. In the ac­tion, the hero­ine Camille must look on help­lessly as her brother and her be­trothed, ci­ti­zens of op­pos­ing city-states, are cho­sen for a mor­tal fight that will de­cide who should gov­ern. The gods de­cree it, the fa­ther/ruler in­sists on it, and Camille’s brother ends up slay­ing her lover. Judith van Wan­roij shines as Camille, ur­gent in her recita­tive and sear­ing in her calls to re­sis­tance. But pat phrases and busy ex­changes box her in vo­cally. This is true for the other soloists as well. What Salieri drama­tised was not in­di­vid­ual agency but a col­lec­tive, and his mu­si­cal means for do­ing so can pall af­ter the first hour of this nine­t­yminute work. Berta Jon­cus PER­FOR­MANCE


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