Voices from the Past

Cupid comes to the Berkshires, arrows aimed

Another refreshingly witty touch involves the male singers who play the Furies (McStoots, tenor Zachary Wilder, and tall bass-baritone Olivier Laquerre.) Dressed in black hoopskirted gowns, they scuttle around, bump into one another, and have little hissy fits, while remembering to repeat like a broken record their dismal refrain, "There is no mercy in Hell." And it is surely Blin's direction, as well as the singers' skill that emphasizes Gauvin's wavering between fury and self-doubt and Sampson's sweet naiveté.

The peace that is celebrated in the Prologue refers to a hiatus in Louis' European land grab, and the theme of love is linked to his passion for his mistress, Mme. De Montespan. Love lies behind both Psyché's downfall and her rescue. Vénus and Vulcain confront each other and debate romantic love versus married love. The final celebratory act with text by Philippe Quinault (brought forward from a 1671 Psyché, which Lully concocted with his longtime collaborator Molière), introduces the gods themselves to affirm the power of love. "Remove Love from Nature," sings Mercure,"and all Nature perishes." Bacchus admits that love outlasts a drunken revel; Momus says it is the one thing he will not mock in his satires; Mars states that love is the single power that can conquer him . And through the singing thread the dancers—as Apollon's muses and arts, as revellers, comedians, soldiers.

In the end, this charming. living relic of another century sails into our hearts, borne not only by the beautiful music, but by timeless truths about human nature.

La Guerre (Eric Shuller), flanked by Mars and Jupiter
credit: Andre Costantini
La Guerre (Eric Shuller), flanked by Mars and Jupiter


Boston Early Music Festival
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
June 22 through 24

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