Composers: Salieri
Compositions: Tarare
Performers: Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
Catalogue Number: Aparte AP208 (3CD)

Beaumarchais’s plays gave us some of the greatest operas of the repertoire – Mozart’s Figaro, Rossini’s Barbiere. So hopes are high for the author’s only libretto. But best set these aside, because Tarare is a profoundly odd Oriental fantasy of an opera – a comic muddle of gods and mortals, with little logic and still less emotional credibility. The title itself is an old French term meaning something like ‘taradiddle’. The whole thing is – deliberately – a lot of silliness.

Once you’ve made peace with that idea you can enjoy its not inconsiderable pleasures, particularly in this no-holds-barred recording. The opening storm sets the tone, erupting jagged into the ear. But this is countered by brilliant military splendour and pomp in a Turkish-style march (deliciously lacking in subtlety here). Janissary jangling and cymbal crashes and charged choruses gives stature to music that finds Salieri at his easiest and most light-footed.

Cyrille Dubois is a delightful Tarare – youthful, bright-toned, with a ringing top C. He’s partnered by Karine Deshayes’ Astasie – a mature heroine, who fights against her abduction by Jean-Sébastien Bou’s pleasingly grizzled baddie Atar. Judith van Wanroij’s relentlessly perky Spinette and a characterful Calpigi from Enguerrand de Hys add strong support. Is it an opera you’d travel miles to see? Probably not. But as a piece of fluff given the most stylish and sophisticated of treatment, this recording has a lot going for it.