Atys—King Louis XIV’s favorite of Lully’s tragédies en musique—gets the luxurious baroque treatment it deserves in this 2011 revival of William Christie and Les Arts Florissants’s celebrated 1987 production at Paris's Opéra-Comique.
Telemann once remarked that “I have known Germans, Englishmen, Russians, Poles […] who knew by heart entire passages from Lully’s [...] Atys” (letter to Carl Heinrich Graun). Widely beloved in its day, the opera in five acts (with an extended prologue) is one of the best of Lully and his librettist Quinault’s collaborative works. It also stands out in their œuvre because of its unusually dark plot and unhappy ending: the lovers Atys and Sangaride are plotted against by the jealous goddess Cybele (in love with Atys) and King Celenus of Phrygia (fiancé of Sangaride), ultimately leading to Atys accidentally stabbing Sangaride to death. Drawn from the fourth book of Ovid’s Fasti, the tragic tale is told through a series of touching airs, duets, and larger ensemble pieces.
Jean-Marie Villégier and William Christie's production is heavily inspired by historical accounts of the early stagings of the opera. From the sumptuous Baroque set and costumes to the use of period instruments and historical gestures and staging, this incarnation of Atys transports its public to the extravagant world of late 17th century Versailles, all the while telling a fantastical story about profoundly human desires and failings.
Photo: © Pierre Grosbois
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