Les Arts Florissants / William Christie / Anne Sofie von Otter

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This 2010 recital by mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter takes her into repertoire that is relatively new to her: French Baroque opera. The bulk of this disc, on which she is accompanied by William Christie leading Les Arts Florissants, is devoted to extended excerpts from Charpentier's Médée and Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie. This is obviously repertoire for which she feels a strong affinity, and she throws herself into these roles with her characteristic wholeheartedness. Médée, in particular, is an intensely expressive role, and von Otter's passionate performance, alternatively grief-stricken and furious, is unreserved in her embodiment of the troubled character. Charpentier's emotionally charged writing makes Médée an ideal vehicle for her; it's no wonder that she was so attracted to it. The Rameau feels somewhat reserved after Médée's roiling fury, but the final scene of the opera is a real show-stopper. Von Otter sings with her typical passion and attentiveness to the characters' emotions, and succeeds in making the listener care about their desperate plights. She has mastered the unique, florid ornamentation of the French middle Baroque, and the music seems as natural to her as breathing. Her voice has lost some of the bloom she had in her youth, and some of the gleam is gone, but her vocal warmth and acute intelligence and musicianship carry her performance. The seriousness of the operas is alleviated by lyrical airs and chansons by Charpentier and Lambert that are placed like palate cleansers throughout the album. Von Otter sings them with utter delight and grace, and leaves the listener hoping that she will record more of these charming songs. Christie and Les Arts Florissants are featured in several instrumental dances, and their professionalism shines here and in their accompaniments. Archiv's sound is clean and bright, with good balance and a strong sense of presence.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Médée, H. 491
1 01:54 Amazon
2 02:38 Amazon
3 02:34 Amazon
4 04:31 Amazon
Concert à quatre parties de violes, H. 545
5 03:27 Amazon
Médée, H. 491
6 04:59 Amazon
7 00:55 Amazon
8 01:15 Amazon
9 01:51 Amazon
10 01:47 Amazon
11 00:57 Amazon
12 00:51 Amazon
13 01:23 Amazon
14 03:12 Amazon
15 01:26 Amazon
16 01:59 Amazon
Concert à quatre parties de violes
17 01:07 Amazon
18 01:55 Amazon
Concert à quatre parties de violes
19 01:15 Amazon
Hippolyte et Aricie
20 05:36 Amazon
Les Fêtes d'Hébé ou les Talens lyriques
21 01:40 Amazon
22 02:11 Amazon
23 01:46 Amazon
24 00:51 Amazon
25 01:07 Amazon
26 01:13 Amazon
27 03:48 Amazon
Hippolyte et Aricie
28 04:13 Amazon
29 02:30 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick