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TRUE ORIGINAL

Being authentic isn’t always easy, says Christophe Rousset, as he describes the tension between historical fidelity and the need to evolve and embrace chance as a musician. Andrew Mellor meets the harpsichordistconductor as he celebrates a quarter century at the forefront of the Early Music scene with his ensemble, Les Talens Lyriques.

You may think the orthodoxies of the historically informed performance movement have sunk in pretty comprehensively by now; that the movement’s watchdogs can relax in the knowledge that we’re generally approaching Baroque and Classical music with integrity, whether at the authentically inclined 18th-century theatre at Drottingholm or at Covent Garden, with its more eclectic approach to period performance.

Christophe Rousset is not so complacent: ‘Many groups these days pretend to know, but do something else,’ says the French harpsichordist and conductor. ‘I was taught in The Hague to follow the path faithfully, so when we use natural trumpets, we use properly natural trumpets – not ones that are adapted to avoid the risks. It’s not the same.’

‘We’ is Les Talens Lyriques, the group Rousset founded just over 25 years ago in Paris after serving his apprenticeship alongside William Christie and other doyens of the Early Music scene.

These days, Les Talens Lyriques’ (LTL) sound is among the most distinctively ‘French Baroque’ there is, even if its repertoire stretches way beyond the boundaries of those coordinates. ‘That is because we keep making experiments and we keep changing,’ says Rousset; ‘It is our duty to go forwards and not just consider the research done. That’s not our way and I don’t think it’s right.’

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About Opera Now

Christophe Rousset celebrates a quarter century at the forefront of the Early Music scene with Les Talens Lyriques; Sir John Eliot Gardiner takes Monteverdi’s three surviving operas on tour around the world; and our guide to the brightest and best opera festivals of 2017. Plus, remembering the velvet voice of Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda; individuality and imagination in the songs of Arthur Sullivan; Debussy’s ravishing Pelléas lets down its hair at Garsington; American baritone Scott Hendricks shares his love of playing bad boys; the art of the librettist; British conductor Nicholas Chalmers; and an 80th birthday tribute to Grace Bumbry.