- Dardanus, tragédie en musique
With the majestic pointed rhythms of the opening bars to Rameau's "Dardanus," we enter unmistakably into the ceremonial world of French baroque opera, a world of grand spectacle where fierce battles rage, monsters threaten civilization, goddesses intervene, and almost anything can provide an excuse for dancing. Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre are among today's most persuasive interpreters of Rameau and his contemporaries. They bring the opera's many dances to life in all their marvelous variety, from graceful minuets to frenzied tambourins, and are unfailingly sensitive to Rameau's vivid orchestration and expressive harmony. This recording uses the original 1739 version of the opera -- it was much revised in 1744, with a considerably altered plot that even eliminated the sea monster -- but retains a few later additions, including the exquisite tenor aria "Lieux funestes" and some very colorful battle music. The cast includes baroque luminaries such as Véronique Gens, who contributes two touching monologues as the princess Iphise, and Mireille Delunsch, a noble Venus. In the title role, John Mark Ainsley's French pronunciation is not perfect, but his musical accomplishments come close. Rameau's realm of musical enchantment is splendidly brought to life in this magical performance.