[NOTE: This review was written in January 2021 as part of my 2010-2019 decade-in-review post.]
Karen and I saw *Atys* at BAM in September of 2011. It’s an opera by Lully from 1675, performed by Les Arts Florissants, an opera ensemble founded by William Christie, based in France, centering on Baroque opera in general and French Baroque opera in particular. Their 1986 production in Paris brought them great acclaim and toured to Brooklyn in 1989. It was brought back to Brooklyn in 1992 and thankfully again in 2011.
Here’s a note from the program to the 2011 production: “In 1987, New York businessman and philanthropist Ronald P. Standon was visiting Paris. He attended a performance of *Atys* the Opéra Comique and immediately fell in love with it. Some years later, Stanton, a patron of BAM, was at a dinner with Karen Brooks Hopkins, BAM’s president, and confessed his regret that he would most likely never see *Atys* performed again. He then wondered how much it would cost to remount the opera and with the figure from Hopkins in hand, he decided to fund the restating himself - a dream realized, and the project of a lifetime. The 2011 staging and international tour (including a stop at Versailles) co-produced by BAM, Opéra Comique, Théâtre de Caen, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Les Arts Florissants, coincides with BAM’s 150th anniversary - a milestone engagement of Baroque opera kicking off a celebratory sesquicentennial.”
I don’t often plant my flag in such a precise way, but I can say without any hesitation that this was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. Every single element of the production was carefully calibrated and worked out to create a seamless experience. My jaw dropped at the start of the show: the supreme elegance and tanginess of the music, the crisp but full-bodied playing of the orchestra, the supreme style of singing, and especially the overpowering opulence of the sets and costumes, it was so much to take in. My state of amazement lasted throughout the show, stays with me today, and will stay with me to my grave.
Would you believe the entire show, this same production (from Paris, when it was new, in 1987), is on YouTube?