Armide 1778 (2CD)
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Armide, premiered in 1686, was the last joint work of Lully and the poet Philippe Quinault. It immediately became a pillar of the Opéra’s repertory, which it finally left only in 1766, when it was removed to make room for a new wave of composers, Philidor, Grétry, Gossec and soon Gluck. A few attempts to restore former tastes still allowed audiences to hear such works as Persée, revived in 1770 (and recorded in that version by Hervé Niquet, ALPHA967). But these operas were profoundly modified in order to increase the role of the orchestra and tailor the vocal numbers to the singers of the day. This was the context for the fascinating and unpublished version of Armide that has lain dormant in the Bibliothèque Nationale for more than two centuries. The revisions to the original are by Louis-Joseph Francœur, nephew of the celebrated François Francœur, one of Louis XV’s court musicians. This recording of the 1778 version of Armide, made at the Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles in collaboration with the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, is not merely the first modern performance but the work’s world premiere, since none of its music was ever actually played at the time. It enables us to grasp the evolution of the ideas and practices of French music over a whole century.