I've now listened to the whole of this recording, and I can confirm that it's worth buying purely for the astonishing performance of Carolyn Sampson as Psyche, backed up by Karina Gauvin as a frighteningly vengeful Venus. Really, the portrayal of Psyche by Carolyn Sampson is superb. It's not just great singing - it's great drama
: the delicacy of the little nuances in her voice is such that I feel I could never quite get to the bottom of it no matter how many times I listen. When she comes to L'Amour's (Cupid's) palace, for example, it seems that every inflection in her singing has dramatic meaning as well as beauty. She has a way of making little flourishes - no, I need to invent a word: 'fritillations' - that flicker so briefly across my hearing that they're gone before I can quite register them, but the effect is like a thrilling little shiver of expectation. For me, she is the highlight of this recording, this performance, but I can't say I found any aspect of it disappointing.
When I saw how long the last act is (it really adds little to the plot because it's just a celebration of the immortalising of Psyche), I wondered if I might get a bit squirmy; but no - there's some very varied music here. Jupiter/Louis (read it how you like) has made everything turn out right yet again, and the music is determined to make sure we realise it and enjoy ourselves. I found it quite hard to sit still in places - such is the infectious character of the music.
So the range of dramatic and musical experience here is considerable - taking in the poignancy of Psyche's predicament, the wonderfully devilish encounter with the Furies, and the celebration of everyone living happily ever after. I don't think this replaces Proserpine
as my favourite, but that's a matter of personal preference. As a performance, this may reach places that Proserpine doesn't, quite. Best to get both.
There are lots of little b/w photos of a live production in the booklet, running alongside the libretto - a nice touch.