A French Baroque Diva: Arias for Marie Fel – Carolyn Sampson, sop./ Ex Cathedra/ Jeffrey Skidmore – Hyperion

A French Baroque Diva: Arias for Marie Fel – Carolyn Sampson, sop./ Ex Cathedra/ Jeffrey Skidmore – Hyperion CDA68035, 72:56 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Marie Fel was the soprano of her age; though Enlightenment Paris knew of many others, and very important, singers, none had the draw that she did, and none was more acclaimed. This was no mere publicity façade or urban legend circulating the City of Light at the time—it was real and Fel was a disciplined, urbane, and highly intelligent artist who not only upped the ante as far as the technical mechanics of singing, but expanded it in terms of virtuosity and stylistic assimilation. After her debut the “adorable nightingale” (as Voltaire called her) she expanded her horizons by studying with renowned singer Christina Somis, also a darling of sorts that had arrived in Paris from Italy. This infusion of the Italian vocal ethos enabled her to attain a technical proficiency unknown among French singers of the day, and her slow, steady, and carefully acquired roles over the next years vaulted her into the position of absolute Diva among French artists. Poets and writers extolled her stage virtues, while composers, especially Rameau, benefitted greatly from her pointed and penetrating performances.

On this recording her career is traced from early debut to last performance, with a particular concentration on the year 1754 when in her early forties and at the peak of her career she revived two operas of Rameau, premiered an opera by Mondonville, and many other sacred perfor-mances. The program is well-chosen and immaculately executed by Skidmore and forces. When I see the name of Carolyn Sampson on anything I know that it is a guaranteed seal of quality, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Her glorious voice is pliable and easily adapted to the variety of styles that Fel assimilated, with a broad range and far-reaching palate of colors on which to draw. The sound at All Hallows, Gospel Oak in London is resonant and embracing. A fine issue.


FIOCCO, J H: Laudate pueri (Part 1 of Laudate pueri); A solis ortu (Part 3 of Laudate pueri); 
Alleluia (Part 4 of Laudate pueri)
LACOSTE: Ah! quand reviendront nos beaux jours?
LALANDE: Regna terrae (Movement 5 of Exsurgat Deus, S71); Sinfonie (Movement 1 of Te Deum laudamus, S32); Tu rex gloriae (Movement 8 of Te Deum laudamus, S32); 
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem (Movement 9 of Te Deum laudamus, S32); 
Viderunt omnes termini terrae (Movement 5 of Cantate Domino, S72)
MONDONVILLE: Gasouillats auzeléts (Act 1 Scene 2 from Daphnis et Alcimadure); Venite, adoremus (Movement 4 of Venite, exsultemus); Hodie si vocem (Movement 6 of Venite, exsultemus);
RAMEAU: Tristes apprêts (from Castor et Pollux); Amour, lance tes traits (from Les fêtes de l’Hymen et de l’Amour); La Lyre Enchantée
ROUSSEAU, J-J: Salve regina

—Steven Ritter

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