Phaéton: Jean-Baptiste Lully (1683)

Lully: Phaéton

★★★½

(Opéra Royal de Versailles, 30 May 2018)

When business took me to Versailles this week, I just happened to arrive on the first night of the Opéra Royal’s new production of Lully’s Phaéton. As you know, French Baroque opera is still something of a terra incognita for me, so I decided to see if there were tickets available, and discovered a last-minute return. It would’ve been rude not to. That evening, perched in a velvet-lined box, with gold and glittering crystal overhead, I settled in for an epic four-hour tale of ambition, love and hubris. It was a steep learning curve, with marked differences from the Italian operas that I know and love, but I can’t think of a better place to experience the Sun King’s composer for the first time, and the production was blessed with a terrific performance in the title role by Mathias Vidal. So join me, as I bumble my way through this first extended encounter with Monsieur Lully…

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Requiem pour les funérailles de Louis XV

Chapelle Royale, Versailles

(Chapelle Royale, Versailles, 22 June 2016)

What do the composer Jean Gilles (1668-1705), the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) and King Louis XV (1710-1774) have in common? The answer’s an odd one: they all had the same piece of music at their funerals. This was Gilles’s Messe des Morts, which had its premiere at its composer’s own funeral and remained so popular for the next seventy years that it was reworked and adapted in numerous ways to fit the requirements of later taste.

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