Cavalli’s Ercole Amante is an oddity. It was intended as a wedding present from Cardinal Mazarin to Louis XIV but got hijacked by Lully who inserted a bunch of ballets for the king to dance stretching out the piece to something like six hours. It wasn’t a great success. It’s also a very odd story for a piece intended for a royal patron as I explained in reviewing an earlier recording. It’s also in Italian which may make the only French court work to be performed in that language.
It’s perhaps surprising that Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys isn’t performed much more often than it is. Most people probably only know it for the tenor aria Vainement, ma bien-aimée which crops up from time to time in recitals and competitions. Sure, it’s not strikingly original. The plot is a love triangle with overlays of revenge and divine retribution and the music is, with the exception of the rather fine overture, a bit on the rumpty tumpty side. But, let’s face it, there are plenty of standard repertoire works with implausible romantic plots and banal, if tuneful, music. I think there’s a large section of the opera audience that would very much enjoy this piece.