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For a stormy confrontation between Atis and Orcan William Christie has commandeered a wind machine for the pit to accompany the explosion of extras on the upper gallery. The men battle it out, and the chorus adds to the bombardment [listen -- Air de Furie: 'Quel bruit! -- Vengez l'innocence' (Act 2), DVD1 track 38, 0:00-1:35]. The secret weapon against Anselm is the fairy Manto, the high tenor of François Piolino. The male fairy caused mild outrage in 1760; now he/she is in the latest fashion, and the mock-seduction of Anselm, played with contemporary conviction, is guaranteed to bring any house down.

François Piolino (Manto, left) and René Shirrer (Anselme, right). DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte
François Piolino (Manto, left) and René Shirrer (Anselme, right). DVD screenshot © 2005 Opus Arte

The fairy is entirely on the side of the young lovers. In the original La Fontaine fable, Atis's main ally in winning Argie is a dog. Of course we see the dog aloft, but it is Manto who does the dirty work against Anselm and frees the lovers [listen -- Trio: 'Vengeons cet outrage!' (Act 3), DVD2 track 19, 0:00-1:26]. That Rameau was attempting a 'comédie lyrique' rather than a farce is clear from the final duet of Atis and Argie, music to melt any mood [listen -- Duo: 'Ah, que j'aimerai mon vainqueur!' (Act 3), DVD2 track 21, 0:00-1:21]. In the midst of the stage tomfoolery there has indeed been a wealth of fine singing. Listening with ears alone, nobody could quite imagine there is a 'Baroque that rocks!'

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Copyright © 1 February 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


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