This program of scenes and arias by Rameau, Charpentier, Lully, and Grandval is well designed to display Patricia Petibon
's consummate vocal technique and historically informed artistry. Her florid coloratura, going up to high D- and E-flat (in the low period-instrument tuning) is clearly articulated and perfectly in tune. She can change color, nuance, and expression on a single note, and her mastery of the style is complete. She captures the seriousness as well as the humor in Rameau's two cantatas, the sorrow of Jonathan's lamentation in Charpentier's "David and Jonathan," the vacillation between reluctant attraction and furious vengeance in Lully's dramatic scene "Armide," and the rollicking fun in the final tour-de-force, Grandval's "Rien du tout"--a wicked parody of all singers and singing styles.
The voice itself takes some getting used to. In keeping with period practice, it is mostly lacking vibrato and so cool and bright as to seem shrill and strident. In the Lully, however, it becomes warmer, darker, and truly expressive. A large group of strings, winds, and percussion supports her splendidly, sometimes with only one or two instruments, sometimes with full orchestral effects that set the stage and underline mood and atmosphere. The musicians come into their own in the numerous instrumental sections, which are played with great verve, rhythmic incisiveness, character, and a wonderful sound. --Edith Eisler