Le Triomphe de l’amour
‘The triumph of love’ runs the rubric, though, as Sandrine Piau comments in the booklet, Cupid’s triumph is rarely shared by his victims. Unappeased longing, bewilderment and vengeful fury are the keynotes in a conspectus of French opera arias from Lully and Charpentier in the 1680s to Grétry and Sacchini (like Lully, an adopted Florentine) a century later. This is largely unfamiliar stuff, even to Baroque aficionados. But it’s hard to think of another soprano who could ‘sell’ it as persuasively as Sandrine Piau. To these scorned and perplexed heroines she brings her familiar pellucid, subtly varied tone and scintillating coloratura technique, together with a mastery of French declamation that tends to elude non-native speakers.
An aria from Grétry’s L’amant jaloux gets the disc off to a spectacular start, with Piau using the vertiginous roulades to convey almost unhinged indignation, then softening her tone to suggest the hurt underlying Léonore’s fury. Even Cupid would not dare deny her demand for vengeance in an explosive aria from the Rebel-Francoeur collaboration Scanderberg. Elsewhere she hymns Bacchus with heady abandon in a delicious ariette from Rameau’s Anacréon, and brings a fine, athletic swagger to Sacchini’s air héroïque ‘Que l’éclat de la victoire’. As ever, Piau makes reams of routine-looking coloratura dramatically specific rather than an excuse for upmarket showing-off.
Most memorable of all are the superb extended scenes from Lully’s Acis et Galatée, Campra’s Idomenée (where Ilione vacillates between her thirst for vengeance and her tenderness towards Idamantes) and Charpentier’s David et Jonathas. Piau lives intensely each fluctuating shade of feeling, colouring the text expressively and using the ‘sighing’ appoggiaturas so characteristic of French Baroque music to heighten the emotion. In style and imagination Piau is matched all the way by Correas and his period band, who on their own give vivid performances of two overtures plus some typically bittersweet Rameau dances.