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Stagings of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux are currently in vogue, so this a timely new release from Harmonia Mundi. Using the composer’s revised 1754 score, Act I provides a preamble to the original composition of 1737, the existing Act I roughly becomes Act II, and so on. I’m not entirely sure that the revision is all to the good – Act II gets offto such a dramatic start with the chorus ‘Que tout gémisse’ and the bereaved Télaïre’s great aria ‘Tristes apprêts’ that it seems disadvantageous to eschew such an opportunity to stun the audience from the word go. Raphaël Pichon conducts the Ensemble Pygmalion, and it’s salutary to hear an idiomatic performance of Baroque piece that doesn’t attack the music with a slew of exaggerations but lets it unfold naturally. The orchestra and chorus are excellent, and the mainly Francophone cast is idiomatic. Florian Sempey has a rich but flexible baritone and his Pollux anchors the drama: Castor, removed by death for most of the action, is sung capably by Colin Ainsworth. Emmanuelle de Negri is commanding as Télaïre, and has mastery of both the long lines and declamatory passages with which the role abounds. Clémentine Margaine’s Phébé is strongly vocalised, but her diction is sometimes strangely obscure. Luxury casting provides the pure-toned Sabine Devieilhe as the Attendant of Hebe.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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