It's 3 AM here in California and I'm waiting for the broadcast
of the Brazil vs. China World Cup game to begin, so I decided
to fire off a post.
Anyhow, I've been attending the Berkeley Early Music Festival
this week (see http://bfx.berkeley.edu>), and though the current
edition is a lot less flashy than the last one (when Mark
Morris' take on Rameau's "Platée" received its U.S. debut),
it's still been quite fabulous overall.
Earlier tonight, I heard Skip Sempé's Capriccio Stravagante,
the Paris-based ensemble, making its festival debut featuring
mezzo-soprano Guillemette Laurens in a wonderful program of
Lambert, Lully, d'Anglebert, Rameau, etc. including several
operatic pieces. (Skip Sempé is another one of those festive
and charming American ex-pats leading distinguished Gallic
[please read this next word in French] "ensembles.")
Mezzo Laurens has a passionate, but very weird voice and stage
demeanor (according to her bio, a crit from Gramophone dubbed
her "the baroque Callas." I was particularly impressed with her
rendition of "Espoir si cher et si doux," Cybele's marvelous
lament from Lully's tragédie lyrique "Atys."
The gist of the plot is that Atys invokes the blessing of the
goddess Cybele upon his marriage to Sangaride. Cybele, helas,
upon seeing the beautiful youth falls in love with Atys.
Jealous of Sangaride, Cybele casts a crazy curse upon Atys,
and causes Atys to murder his beloved Sangaride during a
nightmarish spell. Atys wakes up to despair, horrified to find
out what he has done, and begs Cybele to bring Sangaride back
to life (in fact, Atys castrates himself to prove to Cybele
that his love is pure -- but this part was left out of the
opera). In "Espoir si cher," the jealous goddess' sweeping,
powerful lament she realizes that she can never have the love
Another interesting work performed was the beautiful vocal
setting of "Vos mepris chaque jour" by Michel Lambert
(1610-1696), a chaccone which weaves a solo melody clearly
related to the gorgeous duet "Pur ti miro," from Monteverdi's
"L'Incoronazione di Poppea." The program notes do not discuss
this reference, but does anyone know what's the story behind
this setting, and who borrowed from whom and when?