After two centuries of being known mostly for the rumor he poisoned Mozart (it went back long before Peter Shaffer's play and Milos Forman's film), Antonio Salieri is having a moment, with revivals of several of his operas and a general reevaluation of his importance in the musical scene surrounding Mozart and the young Beethoven (whom he taught). Tarare (the name means something like "taradiddle"), composed in 1787, was one of three operas Salieri wrote for Paris; he might have done more had not the revolution cut short his career there. The libretto was written by Pierre Beaumarchais, whose play furnished the material for Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, and it contains some of the same measure of political satire as in the Mozart work. It also contains just about everything else but the kitchen sink; the official description of the work as a tragédie lyrique gives entirely the wrong idea. There are five acts, plus a weighty prologue in which Nature and the Genie of Fire debate numerous topics of the day. In act one we get to know the ineffectual King Atar (the setting is an indeterminate Asian country) and his star soldier, Tarare, whom he resents. The plot is set in motion by Atar's attempt to abduct Tarare's wife, Astasie, to sell her into a harem, and finally to have her for himself. The opera has some parallels to Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384, but Beaumarchais and Salieri load up their tale with comic courtiers, images of the Orient and the Other, political commentary, and a variety of put-ons of Parisian figures of the day that audiences at two centuries' removed can hardly hope to appreciate. The opera is action-packed, with lots of arioso passages but comparatively few big numbers, as Beaumarchais desired. It is not dull, and it's effectively put across in this Versailles performance by Les Talens Lyriques, their director Christophe Rousset, and a strong cast led by Cyrille Dubois as Atar, Karine Deshayes as Astasie, and Jean-Sébastien Bou in the title role. Tarare will not rewrite the music history books, but it offers a worthwhile look at Mozart's competition.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Acte Troisième: Scène 2: Tarare le premier arrive au rendez-vous, Ne crains rien, superbe Altamort, Partout il a donc l'avantage