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The distinctive feature of this recording of Castor et Pollux is that it follows Rameau’s version of 1754. Tastes had changed in the period between 1737, when the opera was premiered, and the 1750s. Rameau and his able librettist Pierre-Joseph Bernard now felt able to dispose of the once obligatory prologue while at the same time making substantial changes elsewhere. In its dramatically tauter revised version, with an almost entirely new first act, the role of Castor is expanded, the fraternal love of the two twin brothers is given greater emphasis and there is an underlying Masonic thread, Pollux and Castor symbolizing respectively the sun and moon emblems of Freemasonry. In its refreshed attire Castor et Pollux waved the French flag in the so-called ‘Querelle des Bouffons’, a Parisian pamphleteer war during the 1750s between supporters of Italian opera style and those of the French.

Raphaël Pichon enlivens Rameau’s music with effortless grace and an unfailing intuition where affective phrase and rhythmic subtlety are concerned. He has assembled a uniformly strong group of soloists and, while none is perhaps memorable, there are few if any disappointing moments. Readers familiar with the opera’s 1737 original will be happy to know that the musical sacrifices in this revised version are few. Telaira’s affecting ’Tristes apprêts‘ is retained and is sensitively sung by Emmanuelle de Negri. If Pollux’s celebrated ’Nature, Amour‘ has had to go it has been replaced by a comparably impressive ‘friendship’ air, ’Présent des dieux‘. Fine instrumental playing and a disciplined chorus set the seal on a successful enterprise. My sensibilities have been stirred by the opening scenes of Act Two. Outstanding!

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica


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