Gramophone July 2014

The Guardian, The Observer, Sunday 20 avril 2014

Opera Lounge

Forum Opéra



France Musique, Changez de disque

France Musique, La Matinale

Cadences N° 256 septembre 2012

Opéra Magazine hors série 2012-2013 Les opéras à travers le monde

Alain Attyasse, « Pyrrhus à Versailles : une résurrection primordiale », ResMusica

We have to admit the interest of this composition of which the orchestral quality is quite detailed… the dramaturgy, centred on the loves of Pyrrhus (who pines for Polyxène but is spurned by her) and of Acamas, Pyrrhus's confidant, is elaborated around a convincing division of the action, of which we will remember some absolutely admirable musical moments. The underworld act, wherein the diabolical imprecations of Eriphile (whom Pyrrhus betrays) combine with the demonic threats of the Eumenides, is of an implacable immediacy, mixing the most frightening emotions. We shall remember the very striking role of the plaintive Polyxène, victim of the magical ire of her rival; a chorus of nymphs surrounding the goddess Thétis, saturating the atmosphere with shimmering harmonies; and the rare theatrical concision of Polyxène's suicide. This work marks a turning point in the development of the tragédie lyrique, heralding the revolutions of the genre in the following decade.

The performance… allowed for attentive listening and the feeling of witnessing an important and exceptional event. The cast was relatively homogenous, which rendered a not insignificant service to the opera. Guillemette Laurens, bloodthirsty and vengeful, has no need to prove her talent as a tragedian, and the power of the role offered her the opportunity for a wide range of expression. Emmanuelle de Negri was the perfect counterpoint as the pure, sacrificial heroine: her strong, clear and well-managed voice (the air beginning the first act allowed her to build a rich palette of doleful colours) made the best of a pronunciation which shows care for the comprehension of the text. In the same vein, but filled with darkness, Alain Buet, playing Pyrrhus, with his reliable and professional craft, maintained a firm presence throughout the work… Jeffrey Thompson as Acamas [displayed] certainly interesting resources… Last but not least, Michael Greenberg's conducting, useful for tightening some of the weaker moments of the tragedy, valiantly defended this modern premier in spite of some slightly sour string playing, but helped by a chorus whose effects were appropriate, and by the great presence of the harpsichordist Lisa Goode Crawford.

So we can only welcome these musical milestones revived in both musicological and dramatic interests, and this all the more that this concert will be recorded for commercial release on CD, allowing much greater visibility.

Laurent Bury, « Quand Atys 2011 rencontre Atys 1987 », Forum Opéra

An extremely low-profile conductor and group, a composer just barely known amongst harpsichord lovers, a small room that was never conceived for concerts (the Versailles Opera is closed for construction works): auspices for the performance of this Pyrrhus seemed quite unfavourable. But that was without allowing for the new confrontation of the superb Sangaride of the recent revival of Atys with the unforgettable Cybèle of the original show of twenty-five years beforehand, who were to be heard together in the same concert. And as we shall see, Pancrace Royer can offer up thanks from beyond the grave to these two exceptional singers… Had [the tourists] reached as far as the Crusades Room, however, they would have discovered a work full of beauty, served by fantastic performers… this opera precedes [Jean-Philippe Rameau's] Hippolyte et Aricie by three years: while not matching his genius, it shows that Rameau did not create his works in a vacuum, but that the Académie Royale de Musique was already giving operas "in a new style," to quote Destouches on the subject of this Pyrrhus.

Admittedly Michael Greenberg is perhaps more an instrumentalist and a musicologist than a conductor to the core [but] the result was convincing… And especially, this Pyrrhus benefits from wonderful soloists… Alain Buet brings to the title role a baritone voice in full bloom and a real dramatic commitment… With a richly resonant voice, intensely moving with each of her solos, Emmanuelle De Negri shows here that she is destined for the most beautiful roles. And the Sangaride of 2011 finds a worthy match in the Cybèle of 1987, the inexhaustible Guillemette Laurens: a quarter of a century has passed since the first Atys, but in terms of dramatic investment, the mezzo-soprano remains an actress to take your breath away, and the imprecations of this Baroque Ortrud that is Eriphile, a concentration of hate worthy of her homonym in Racine's Iphigénie, will remain for a long time in our memory. Fortunately, the Alpha label had their microphones in the hall, and in one year a recording that will immortalize this concert should be available, a sweet, posthumous revenge for the opera composer Pancrace Royer.

« Chronique concert », Muse Baroque

Jeffrey Thompson and Emmanuelle de Negri were without a doubt the two great tragedians of the evening, followed closely by Hilary Metzger, a true interpreter of the twists and turns of the plot, which the cellist traced in a poignant manner. Although of American origin, the tenor demonstrated an irreproachable and careful expression of the text, much more "speaking" than the majority of French singers. Supported by a solid vocal technique, he acted with his whole body, making of his face a second mouth, as his facial expressions changed rapidly according to the thoughts of his character. Acamas, friend but also rival of Pyrrhus, wants to flee with Polyxene as a means of possessing her. A manipulative and deceitful man, to whom Thompson gave a terrifying stature and an evil twist, but attractive through the directness of his piercing gaze and the volubility of his voice. Skilful in his navigation of the passages of register, and in the juxtaposition of contrasting nuances and characters, he recreated the theatre, the absent stage, revealing a surprising palette of affects, accompanied by extremely varied colours and textures. From his violent love for Polyxene (Act IV) to the confession he makes to Pyrrhus as he dies (“I have betrayed you/ love is responsible for my injustice” – Act V), the Acamas of Jeffrey Thompson made us shiver, from beginning to end, as much from fear as from compassion.

Responding to this bubbling and elusive acting was the inflexible and candid sweetness of Emmanuelle de Negri. Deeply imbued with her character, the soprano wore Polyxene's torments on her face, going as far as to leave the stage on the edge of tears after her first scene with Pyrrhus. But nothing in her playing of the role was overdone. All in moderation and refinement, using her vocal possibilities to the extreme in order to express as closely as possible the affects suggested by the score, sustaining them with a vocal direction that was always well managed.

Equally seductive was the silky and radiant timbre of Nicole Dubrovitch, through the characters of Ismene and Thetis. Generously comforting, with a straight and easy projection, which charmed by its suppleness and simplicity, Nicole Dubrovitch embodied beneficent and comforting characters to whom her voice gave a special charm, communicating a reassuring confidence by the light spontaneity of her ornaments.

As for the rest of the cast, one appreciated the deep basses of Alain Burt and Virgile Ancely… the forthcoming disc will be the bearer of a spirit that is more exhilarating, simply alive, reflecting the heated passions that allied and opposed one another at the court of King Pyrrhus.

David LeMarrec, «Pancrace ROYER, Pyrrhus (1730) -I- Une tragédie sans amour (Versailles 2012)», Carnets sur sol

It is no exaggeration to state that the rediscovery of this tragédie en musique was quite important, owing to the notable novelty of the music, but especially because of its remarkable general quality – the work culminates in several moments that belong in the select anthology of the tragédie lyrique… the end is particularly gloomy: not only is the innocence of Polyxène sacrificed, the playwright awaits this moment to reveal that Pyrrhus was loved in return. The turn of events is all the more dramatic with a bass singer in the lead role, a voice that usually characterizes virile heroes (often spurned, like Quinault and Lully’s Roland or La Motte and Destouches’ Alceste), rivals or father figures. Nothing prepares the spectator for this confession, truly surprising for those unfamiliar with La Serre…

Two innovations are noteworthy. First, the continuation of the action from one act to the next. Gentil-Bernard is often cited as an example for the second version of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux (1754) (the end of the battle continues with the famous aria “Triste apprêts”), but here the link is stronger still and less traditional. It can be compared to Destouches’ treatment of Callirhoé in 1712, where an agitated theme at the beginning of act III follows the Bacchic fury in act II. But in Pyrrhus the “bridge” between acts III and IV is already in the libretto: Eriphile’s infernal invocation is continued very naturally, in the text as well as in the music, by the murderous disorders of the crowd at the beginning of act IV. The procedure is rare enough to be noted, all the more so in the tragédie en musique where “travelling” between the acts is the norm.

More fundamentally, the work is one of the few cases (we are not certain to have seen others at the moment of writing this) where a normal, amorous couple is never to be found. The tenor (Acamas), whom other writers might have rendered the charitable lover of Polyxène, betraying his friend the valorous hero (like Iphis in La Motte and Destouches’ Omphale, or, without any prior connection to the hero, Médor in Quinault and Lully’s Roland) in order to be loved, is here an absolute foil, not only weak, but moreover scorned by the heroine – and betrayed in turn by Eriphile.

Ordinarily, love is presented as an absolute alternative to glory. Here, it is no more than a source of destructive passions, for all parties. And Polyxène, the lone virtuous figure, can only surrender to it by signifying its impossibility, and only in death…

In short, a true originality, where love is hardly presented in its best light.

Le Journal du Conservatoire  59 (décember 2004)

Spectacles à Nancy et alentours  229 (2006)

Le Monde 2014

France Musique, London Calling

Salon du Violon 2014