Based on a program presented at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2011, this recording, made in a German radio studio in 2013, offers a pair of little-known short operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. One of the two, La descente d'Orphée aux enfers (not to be confused with a similarly titled cantata), either was left unfinished or has been partially lost; it is missing a finale and resolution to the plot. As a result, it basically hangs when it concludes the program here; to end with the lighter La Couronne de fleurs, with a pastoral text by none other than Molière, might have been a more satisfying sequence. But both operas are quite rare and will likely appeal to fans of Charpentier's style, so much more irregular and expressive than that of his rival Lully and quite effective in the Orpheus story even if not on Gluck's level. They also have the choice of a recording of La descente d'Orphée aux enfers by the reliable William Christie, but this version benefits from some strong singers (notably tenor Aaron Sheehan as Orphée) and from the presence of lutenist Paul O'Dette, who also serves as co-conductor. Although made in a studio, it captures the energy of the live performances in which it is rooted. Recommended for lovers of Baroque opera.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|La Couronne de Fluers, H. 486|
|La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers, H. 488|