There’s a pretty good “making of” extra with the 2013 Glyndebourne recording of Rameau’s rarely performed Hippolyte et Aricie. In it, director Jonathan Kent argues that there are essentially two ways of dealing with the French baroque; elegance or “throwing the kitchen sink at it”. To this one might add a weird pastiche of bare chests, stylized gesture and high camp but that’s another story. My best experiences with Rameau have definitely been of the kitchen sink variety. I’m thinking of productions like José Montalvo’s Les Paladins. Kent is a bit more restrained but still pretty inventive which I think is necessary as Hippolyte et Aricie is rather episodic and fragmented and could use some livening up.
Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria hasn’t proved as popular as his other late work L’incoronazione di Poppea but, given as compelling a performance as it got at the Teatro Real, it’s a bit hard to see why that is. On this 2007 recording we have an elegant and interesting production by Pier Luigi Pizzi, an excellent cast headed by Kobie van Rensburg and Christine Rice and the incomparable William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants. It’s a compelling package.
Given all the myriad versions of Le Nozze di Figaro in the DVD catalogue (eighteen currently available) why would anyone bother with a bog standard version in 18th century dress and with a cast that probably aren’t household names in their own households? Who (apart from the Toronto Public Library) would buy such a thing? Anyway, that’s pretty much what you get on the 1994 Lyon recording. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with it. If you saw it live in Winnipeg or Edmonton you probably would feel that you had had an OK night at the opera but why a DVD release? It’s a mystery!