Wonderful ! Many thanks Jean-Luc for this beauty
Even for a baroque opera, Les Boreades had a bleak history. It was Rameau’s last opera, composed when he was in his eighties, and when he died before the scheduled premiere, another opera was substituted, and Les Boreades went unheard. It was performed once in concert in 1770 in Lille, and then not again until 1963. John Eliot Gardiner brought it to new life in 1974, leading to this recording.
Composer: Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer: Jennifer Smith, Anne-Marie Rodde, Philip Langridge, John Aler, Jean-Philippe Lafont
Orchestra: The English Baroque Soloists
Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner
Number of Discs: 3
DR-Analysis: DR 14
Size: 3.49 GB
That this recording exists at all, is due to the persistence of John Eliot Gardiner, who worked out a performing version from the surviving manuscript as early as 1975. The original opera, written by Rameau when he was in his eighties and never performed in his lifetime (the composer died during rehearsals and the planned performance was abandoned), had been forgotten for over 200 years, and all attempts at actually getting it on stage appear to have been dogged by bad luck. Even this recording, which needed eight years between the recording sessions at Aix-en-Provence and its release in 1984, is not without its problems. The biggest seems to be the fact that the French publishing house which owns the copyright to the libretto refused to allow it to be translated – and demanded an extortionate fee on each box sold if the French libretto was printed in the booklet. In the end, Erato decided to do without, and have instead printed a summary of the plot (which is not keyed to the track numbers but can, with a little effort, be fairly easily followed). Another problem appears to have been the recording venue, which leads to a certain amount of echo. The balance between the singers and the orchestra is not always ideal, and there are differences in sound between different parts of the opera. However, all told the engineering is acceptable – certainly better than what you would get on a budget label, I imagine.
Like practically all Rameau’s stage works, the storyline here is based on Greek mythology. The “Boréades” of the title are two male descendants of the god of the north wind (Boreas) who lay claim to the hand of the Queen of Bactria, Alphise, and to the kingship. Alphise, however, is in love with Abaris, a mysterious stranger who has been brought up in the temple of Apollo. When Alphise comes out into the open and declares her love for Abaris, the two sons of Boreas call on him to wreak revenge. There is a freak storm, and Alphise is carried away into Boreas’s kingdom (which some think may have been Britain, although that is highly unlikely). Abaris follows her and manages to silence Boreas and his two sons by using a magic arrow given to Alphise by the god of Love. If all this sounds rather stupid and superficial, it is just that – the plot seems to be there only as a rather flimsy excuse for lots of dancing, divertissements, appearances of gods, wonderful stage-effects (clouds, winds, etc.) – and some lovely singing, I should add. Jennifer Smith as Alphise is very much at home in this kind of repertoire, and her stylish singing helped me to excuse the occasional hardness of her timbre. The real “stars” of this performance are, however, Philip Langridge (Abaris) and Gilles Cachemaille (Borilée, one of the two pretenders to the throne). Both have plenty of opportunity to shine and do so with delightful voices, rather outshining the other male contributors. Of the smaller female roles, it is Annemarie Rodde as Sémire, a confidante of Alphise, who can create the best impression with her Act 1 air, “Un horizon serein”. The Monteverdi Choir is, as usual, exquisite; the playing by the English Baroque Soloists at this period does not quite match up to that on later Rameau recordings by Marc Minkowski’s Musiciens du Louvre, but is still wonderful to listen to. There are plenty of very well-known “HIPP” musicians to be heard here, including Lisa Beznosiuk with some great flute playing and Nicholas McGegan on one of the two harpsichords.
French baroque music is often considered “mannered”, and personally I think Rameau’s operas are definitely an acquired taste – they “reek” of the late Ancien Régime and its decadence. But musically they are always full of interesting details and surprises – as Gardiner points out in his essay, the octogenarian composer was not above introducing clarinets for the first time here.
Analyzed folder: /96k Rameau – Les Boreades – Gardiner
DR Peak RMS Filename
DR14 -0.80 dB -19.73 dB sideA.aif
DR15 -0.82 dB -20.47 dB sideB.aif
DR14 -0.67 dB -19.09 dB sideC.aif
DR14 -0.51 dB -19.76 dB sideD.aif
DR15 -0.89 dB -20.93 dB sideE.aif
DR14 -0.78 dB -19.30 dB sideF.aif
Number of files: 6
Official DR value: DR14
- RCM: Okki Nokki (L’art du son, Clearaudio’s Diamond Cleaner)
- TT: Vintage (1982) Yamaha PX-3
- Cartridge: Sumiko Black Bird
Cartridge: ZYX 50R Bloom
- Phono amp: Audio Research SP15 own tube phono section.
- ADC/DAC: RME Fireface UC
- Pre Amp: Audio Research SP15
- Finals: Opera Consonance 9.9 Mono (Tube)
- Speakers: Dali Helikon 400
- Connections: MIT Terminator, Audioquest Emerald, Audioquest Quartz
- Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
- Super light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
- DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
- Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
- Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5
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