Veronique Gens - Passion - The Sunday Times
The French soprano made her debut in 1986 as a member of William Christie’s Les Arts Florissants, but her repertoire has encompassed Mozart, Verdi’s Alice Ford, Wagner’s Eva and Lehar’s the Merry Widow. Yet here she returns to her French baroque roots, her voice still youthfully fresh, with a temperamental range that enables her to project the passions of the classical heroines Alceste, Armide and Médée, and the mythological deities Juno, Ceres and Aeolia with a tragedienne’s clarity of diction and histrionic eloquence. The programme devised by Gens and de Camboulas is an “opera imaginaire” focusing on the repertoire of two great 17th-century divas of the Académie Royale de Musique, Mlle de St-Christophe and Marie Le Rochois. Lully — the dominant musician at the Sun King’s court — takes centre stage with airs and dances from Amadis, Atys, the music for Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Armide, Persée, but the final sequence, climaxing in Charpentier’s Medée, the masterpiece of the period, shows Gens at the height of her interpretative powers in Lully’s Air de La Nuit and A Grieving Woman Railing at Death, with Desmarets’s exquisite “Sleep Chorus” from La Diane de Fontainebleau evoking sweet oblivion.