Psyché 1280x680 © E. Larrayadieu

Tragédie lyrique in one prologue and five acts (1678)

Music by Jean-Baptiste Lully

Libretto by Thomas Corneille and Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle

Concert performance in French

Thursday, 27 January 2022, 7 pm

Content / Background

In his Metamorphoses – today otherwise known as The Golden Ass – the poet Apuleius (123 – c. 170 AD) made Amor and Psyche the main protagonists in the only novel from ancient Rome that has survived in its entirety. No Greek source material is known, so it is likely that Apuleius created it himself, and for once a metamorphosis has an ending that is entirely happy. In Baroque-era Paris Molière turned his attention to the story and in 1671 was working on the tragédie-ballet Psyché for which his long-time musical partner Lully was to write the music. Molière was pressed for time, so he engaged the authors Pierre Corneille and Philippe Quinault to help him with the libretto. However, Molière and Lully fell out, and the composer subsequently worked with Quinault as his librettist. Following Molière’s death in 1673, Lully returned to the material. Corneille’s younger brother Thomas, himself a noted poet at that time, and Fontenelle, the early proponent of the Enlightenment, shortened the work, turning the rigid alexandrines of the spoken dialogue into verses suitable for recitative and creating a new text to which to set the music. For the tragédie lyrique they also altered Molière’s plot: Venus schemes against the mortal Psyché who throws herself into a river out of grief and lovesickness. However, Jupiter commands that Psyché be allowed to ascend to the heavens where she experiences eternal love with Amor. Historical reports of the success or otherwise of the premiere at the Paris opera differ wildly. The magazine Le Mercure galant describes the opera as another perfect work by Lully. But this assessment can be doubted since the one of the magazine’s publishers was Thomas Corneille, the librettist. On the other hand, the Parfaict brothers, distinguished 18-century theatre historians, spoke of Psyché with nothing but contempt. However, as admirers of Quinault their appraisal may owe a great deal to their opposition to Thomas Corneille. These views meant that Psyché was long overlooked and it was not until the 21st century that conductors began to take an interest in this unusual work of Lully’s which contains not only the obligatory homage to the Sun King, but also the satirical spirit of late Molière.

Cast

Conductor

Christophe Rousset

Biography
Psyché

Ambroisine Bré

Biography
Vénus

Bénédicte Tauran

Biography
Aglaure

Deborah Cachet

Biography
Flore

Eugénie Lefebvre

Biography
Amour

Cyril Auvity

Biography
Mercure

Robert Getchell

Biography
Palémon

Fabien Hyon

Biography
Apollon

Nicholas Scott

Biography
Jupiter

Philippe Estèphe

Biography
Le Roi

Anas Séguin

Biography
Mars

Matthieu Heim

Biography
Orchestra

Les Talens Lyriques

Biography

Tickets Buy tickets now

Psyché

Theater an der Wien,Wien

Date/Time Venue/Location Price Ticketlink
Thu, 27.01.20227:00 pm Psyché
Theater an der Wien, Linke Wienzeile 6Wien1060
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