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Amadis of Gaul was Don Quixote’s favourite legendary hero, and Louis XIV also associated himself with the legendary knight. Since French fashion in opera plots was moving away from classical mythology towards the medieval Christian romances, Amadis was the ideal subject for Lully’s 1684 opera. His librettist, Philippe Quinault, did his best to point up the parallels between Amadis and his own patron, the Sun King.

Christophe Rousset conducts his ensemble, Les Talens Lyriques, in this stylish – and stylishly-presented – recording. The three CDs are accompanied by a booklet including several scholarly essays, a libretto in French and English, and some useful reproductions taken from the original score and set designs.

The title role is for haute-contre; Cyril Auvity floats his high notes idiomatically and has a pleasant timbre with none of the nasal quality sometimes associated with this voice. His beloved Oriane is sung by Judith van Wanroij, a Dutch soprano who specialises in French baroque. The villainous sorcerers Arcabonne and Arcalaüs (Ingrid Perruche and Edwin Crossley-Mercer) have a threatening edge, while only Urgande (Bénédicte Tauran) occasionally drops below the excellent standards of intonation of the rest of the cast. A particular pleasure was the plummy continuo, with Lynda Sayce on lute, which brought depth and resonance to what might otherwise have been dryish recitative.

Simon Rees Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing