“Versailles: Portrait of a Royal Domain,” this yr’s Boston Early Music Pageant chamber opera night (my 2016 evaluation of similar is HERE ), introduced us a sampling of the entertainments Louis XIV provided his courtiers and privileged visitors within the public appartements of the chateau. The program of works by Charpentier, Lully, and Lalande, staged at Jordan Corridor on Saturday, repeats on the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Middle in Great Barrington on June 21st and 22nd, and on the Venetian Theater in Katonah, New York, on June 23rd.
When the French courtroom left Paris in 1682 to take up permanent residence within the palace of Versailles, Louis XIV knew that he wanted to maintain his courtiers sufficiently amused in order that they might not regret their “exile” from the pleasures of the town. Entertainments generally known as the Soirées d’Appartements occurred 3 times every week through the winter season within the newly adorned Grand Flats. Music, dancing, quite a lot of games, and a lavish buffet have been on supply in a relatively casual setting by which friends, fairly than being served at tables, have been free to choose their own meals, games, seating, and conversational companions. The painted ceiling of the brand new hall of mirrors depicted the Solar King not as a mythological determine however quite as a real life human being — a up to date monarch.with a documented historical past of heroic deeds. Stage director Gilbert Blin’s article in the Pageant program guide explains the intersecting relationships of the three composers to each other and to Louis XIV and the Versailles festivities. As the king’s official composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87) retained a monopoly on all French opera performances. Lully’s opera Atys (1676) was the king’s favourite, and excerpts from the opera have been steadily performed at his salons. Without competing immediately with Lully. Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704), in all probability needed to exhibit to the king his talents in the area of French secular music as well as in the Latin sacred music for which he was greatest recognized. While Charpentier had connections to the highly effective Guise household as well as to the Dauphin, the king’s eldest son, Michel-Richard de Lalande was supported by the king’s former mistress, the Marquise de Montespan, and taught harpsichord to her daughters.
Blin makes a rigorously documented case for the authorship of the anonymous libretto of Charpentier’s Les Plaisirs de Versailles. Whereas there isn’t a report of a performance, and Charpentier’s scores never mention the authors of their texts, the title web page of the manuscript rating of Les Plaisirs clearly declares the piece’s material and objective: it was most certainly written for Versailles with the intent of itself turning into certainly one of its “Pleasures.” The opening web page pronounces that “La scène est dans les app.[artements]” (The scene is in the Flats). Les Plaisirs was meant to be performed in front of the king: the last line given to La Musique refers to Louis because the beneficiary of the plot’s intent (to make him snort); the final refrain addresses the king instantly as spectator. The story itself describes the entertainment: La Musique appears to improvise however truly manipulates the other characters; La Musique and La Conversation compete for first rank; Comus, the god of festivities, intervenes by providing the distraction of food and drinks; unsuccessful, he calls on Le Jeu to usher in video games of all types. This mix of pleasures represents a brand new sort of courtroom leisure typically referred to as “Les Appartements” after the venue by which it occurred. The truth is, the December 1682 difficulty of the monthly journal Le Mercure Galant, revealed by Jean Donneau de Visé (1638-1710), a trendy author and journalist, in collaboration with Thomas Corneille (1625-1710*, youthful brother of the playwright Pierre Corneille (1606-84), describes an leisure similar to Charpentier’s. The three had collaborated starting in 1675, and Charpentier wrote incidental music for a lot of of Donneau de Visé’s performs. Blin’s hypothesis appears extremely probably: that Donneau de Visé wrote the libretto for Les Plaisirs de Versailles.
The libretto by Antoine Morel for the Les Fontaines de Versailles. by Michel-Richard de Lalande states that the live performance was “given to his Majesty within the grand flats of his chateau at Versailles on the fifth of April, 1683” (“donné à sa Majesté dans les grands appartements de son Château de Versailles, le 5 avril 1683”). The state of affairs imagines that the Deities whose sculptures adorn the fountains of the well-known gardens are meeting in the palace, getting ready to have fun the king’s return to Versailles within the spring. In his youthful days, Louis favored to conduct tours of the gardens on foot whereas describing to his guests the allegorical meanings of the fountains and their statues. When walking turned troublesome, he used a wheelchair or “roulette.” As Blin points out, from 1661 till his dying in 1715 the king personally oversaw the design and ongoing enlargement of the gardens and their fountains; the flowery waterworks represented the last word triumph of artwork over nature. Morel’s textual content praises Louis as creator of the gardens, but represents a dream relatively than an actual promenade, imagining “a symposium of the gods personified by the statues that have been the ornament of the waters of Versailles.”
The shallow stage at Jordan Hall made a decent fit for the BEMF chamber ensemble of 11 gamers and 12 singers, most of whom have been also referred to as upon to bop. As the Overture to Les Plaisirs de Versailles concluded, the curtain opened on the royal flats. The decor consisted of four giant golden urns standing on malachite- and lapis lazuli-encrusted pedestals. On either aspect stood a table of elaborately introduced food. The massive continuo ensemble, led by Paul O”Dette and Stephen Stubbs, theorbos, and Michael Sponseller, harpsichord, was grouped on the appropriate; Robert Mealy, concertmaster, led the strings and winds on the left. As Louis, dancer and choreographer Carlos Fittante arrived in an invalid chair, and remained there throughout the divertissement. Within the opening scene, La Musique, satirizing the classical prologue of the muses, praised Divine Concord because the monarch’s favorite pastime. The second scene targeted on the rivalry between La Musique and La Dialog, Wakim’s ethereal excessive soprano competing imperiously with the fixed interruptions of Marjorie Maltais’s virtuosic mezzo parlando in speedy triple time. Music referred to as for silence so she might deliver her track to Love and allure the king, only to be ridiculed by Dialog. Music danced a minuet, which Dialog mistook for a courante, thus displaying her ignorance. In the third scene, one of the Pleasures, tenor Aaron Sheehan tried to calm the dispute as Comus (baritone Jesse Blumberg) provided scorching chocolate to the two women. Music was not above pilfering a couple of grapes from the buffet, swiftly stuffing them into her décolletage. The fourth scene was led off by tenor Jason McStoots in comedian guise as Lord of the Games (Le Jeu); Dialog made enjoyable of Music’s ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la, Louis was moved to snort, and all praised his victory over the three-headed hydra, the triple alliance of Holland, England, and Sweden.
Act IV, scene 5, from Lully’s Atys depicts the river gods and the nymphs of the fountains celebrating the upcoming marriage of the daughter of Sangar, the god of the river, to the son of Neptune. Olivier Laquerre’s rich baritone and stylish delivery have been ideally suited to the a part of Sangar, and the trio of divinities — soprano Molly Netter, mezzo Virginia Warnken, and tenor Zachary Wilder, made an exquisite ensemble. All joined in dancing a joyous gavotte and two minuets. The sleep scene from Act III adopted without pause. Right here again Louis was wheeled in to sleep and dream in his chair. Tenor Aaron Sheehan, as Sleep, delivered a mellifluous praise of repose with exquisite tone high quality and subtlety of dynamics and phrasing over a repeated bass pattern. As oboists Gonzalo Ruiz and Kathryn Montoya switched to recorders , Jason McStoots’s candy high notes embodied the character of Morpheus, god of goals, to perfection. Even bass-baritone John Taylor Ward’s sonorous Phobetor, god of nightmares, yielded in the long run to the mild silence of sleep, tenor Zachary Wilder becoming a member of the trio for the ultimate couplet of this magical scene.
In the course of the Overture of Lalande’s Fontaines de Versailles, pale draperies reworked the golden urns into the backyard’s fountains, behind which the varied allegorical statues took their locations. From his wheelchair, Louis dreamt of walks in the gardens. Flora, the goddess of spring (soprano Molly Netter), and Latona, the mother of Apollo (mezzo Virginia Warnken), sang a perfectly-attuned duet celebrating the return of the Solar (Louis was referred to as the Sun King) and of spring. Apollo (Aaron Sheehan) joined them, eloquently praising Louis as the divine fact of which he’s solely the image. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, sung by Sophie Michaux, a mezzo of astonishing range and adaptability, reported that the return of the Solar has triggered flowers and grain to develop. Flora referred to as on the zephyrs to fly to her fountains. In a bravura show of power, bass-baritone John Taylor Ward as Enceladus, the enormous of Mount Aetna in Greek mythology, promised henceforth to surrender earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and as an alternative to entertain the king with fountains. Finally, Louis (Carlos Fittante) acquired up to dance, To an excellent chaconne, with instrumental variations by oboes and bassoons, he expertly wielded a sword and slew the hydra monster. Bacchus, Fame, Enceladus, and all the gods and goddesses renounced all unhappiness and joined in praise of their hero, “the sovereign Grasp of the earth and the waters, who has turned darkest night time into brightest day.
Given the area restrictions at Jordan Hall, one questioned whether all of the soloists and members of the choir wanted to be on stage at one time. Perhaps some might have waited within the wings, or sung from the balcony. As it was, there appeared to be simply an excessive amount of happening for the staging of Les Fontaines to be really effective. BEMF’s fantastic singers and gamers deserved a setting with less confusion and more room by which to move about.
Virginia Newes, who lives in Cambridge, was Affiliate Professor of Music Historical past and Musicology at the Eastman Faculty of Music.
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