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You can’t fault its imagination, musical and dramatic diversity, the beauty and variety of orchestration, the prettiness of the tunes or the energy of the dances. So why does Lully’s 1683 opera as a whole leave me cold? Partly it is the shapeless trip as we follow godlet Phaéton’s hubristic path to a fiery death, killed by Jupiter’s thunderbolt to save the universe from conflagration; and partly the fact that at no point do we care. Despite Christophe Rousset’s reliably committed and exacting performance, there is something terribly formulaic about the storytelling and emotional journey. Librettist Quinault’s idea of inserting a love interest helps a bit (Phaéton is given a hot girlfriend, Théone, but dumps her for the promise of a throne, and she spends the rest of the opera in threnodic laments), but all that tuneless French chat is still a struggle: highlights, here, would be a better bet. Emiliano Gonzalez Toro is a fine ringing hero, Isabelle Druet sings Théone’s constant keening plaints with passion, and the supporting cast is uniformly excellent.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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