Over the past couple of years I have appreciated early music opera much more than I did, thanks to Lully(as well as Monteverdi and Handel) who revolutionised opera. Armide is a lovely work, and won't leave any fans of Lully's music disappointed. The conductor and the singers were what got me further interested, but Robert Carsen's stage directing has always been somewhat of a mixed bag for me. Apart from an ending that seemed more at home in Wozzeck, which jarred with the fantasy feel of the rest of the performance, I found myself loving this production of Armide. The production is a mix of traditional and modern, essentially it is more a very elegant modern approach, lots of rich red and muted silver, with some French baroque traditional elements. The video directing and picture quality are also top notch. The stage directing apart from the ending is as elegant as the production values, blending song, dance and psychology wonderfully. The choreography is very nicely done, but for me the standout was the sinister and intense La Haine scene. Musically it is close to perfect. The orchestral playing is stylish and refined with its fair share of depth, while William Christie's conducting is lively with a clear love for Lully's score. Stephanie D'Oustrac is commandingly regal and her voice has a striking and fitting smoky quality to it. Paul Agnew is an ardent lover and sings with clarity and lack of strain. Laurent Naouri brings his sonorous bass-baritone to great use, and makes the most even in drag the role of La Haine. All in all, not for all but I for one found it very nicely done. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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