"Superb... this will ravish the ear." –Classics Today
2007 Grammy Nominee
The Boston Early Music Festival second opera recording for CPO features the 2001 operatic centerpiece, Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Thésée. Hailed as “a stunning revival of…Lully’s greatest hit” (The Boston Globe), BEMF’s 2001 production has continued to be a favorite among BEMF audiences. The production was expertly led by BEMF Artistic Co-Directors Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs, who again oversaw the musical direction of the opera during the recording sessions. The stellar cast of the 2001 production, including tenor Howard Crook in the title role, was reunited for what will be the premiere recording of one of Lully’s most important works.
Thesée premiered at the court theater at St. Germain-en-Laye on January 11, 1675 and was the product of earlier experiments by composer Lully and librettist Philippe Quinault into what would become 17th-century French opera’s standard form, the tragédie en musique (later termed tragédie lyrique). A tremendous success in its time, Thésée remained in the Parisian repertoire for more than 100 years and was revived at least 30 times throughout Europe.
Thésée’s plot is propelled by a particularly convoluted love quadrangle: Ægée, King of Athens, is engaged to marry the sorceress princess Médée. However, Ægée has unwisely fallen in love with Æglé, an Athenian princess who is also his ward. This already delicate situation is compounded by the appearance of Thésée, a mysterious stranger who is actually Ægée’s long-lost son, who promptly falls in love with Æglé. And to further complicate matters, Médée recognizes Thésée, for whom she has long harbored deep romantic feelings. In true Baroque fashion, the plot winds its way through passions and betrayals and ends with the divine intervention the goddess Minèrve on behalf of Thésée, the banishment of the deceitful Médée from the kingdom, and a grand celebration commemorating the union of the happy couples ending the opera.