Created in January 1674, Alceste ou le triomphe d'Alcide is Lully’s second opera. With Cadmus et Hermione the previous year, he had offered Louis XIV the first ever lyric tragedy and whetted the royal appetite. Alceste is Lully’s first masterpiece. The King was already conquered: he had asked for the rehearsals to take place in Versailles and his enthusiasm was such that: “the King declared that if he was in Paris at the time of the performances, he would go every evening”.
Lully and his librettist Quinault’s genius was to talk about love and power in terms that could only please the young King: beautiful Alceste, glorious King Admete’s betrothed is coveted by Hercules, under his identity as Alcide. Mortally wounded during combat, King Admete can only be saved if someone takes his place in Hell: Alceste sacrifices herself for love. Alcide/Hercules promises Admete that he will fetch Alceste from Hell if she becomes his. When they return from Hell, the farewell scene between the spouses is so moving that Alcide/Hercules renounces Alceste and lets her go back to Admete.
Lully invented here everything that led him to success and Christophe Rousset, remarkably knowledgeable about the work of the Florentine born musician, is pursuing his cycle of Lully operas with this masterpiece, supported by the best singers to make our hearts flutter, as did the young King’s, victorious in war and madly in love with Madame de Montespan…
Tragedy in 5 acts with a prolog, on a libretto by Philippe Quinault.
Created on 19 January 1674 at the Jeu de Paume de Bel-Air in Paris.
Les Talens Lyriques, Amadis, Lully
The performances of Alceste by Lully are made possible thanks to the support of Aline Foriel-Destezet.
The Talens Lyriques are supported by the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication and by the Ville de Paris.
They are also supported by the Anneberg Foundation GRoW - Gregory and Regina Annenberg Weingarten and the Cercle des Mécènes.
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)