b) Act II, Scene 5: Armide: Enfin il est en ma puissance
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Tracks 4-6
This is not music that came from silence. The debut would have been surrounded by the rustle of people with short attention spans in big clothes, the workings of elaborate scene machinery, and the thuds and grunts of dancers. More impressively, the work seems to have been shaped by the extravagant effort to flatter the man in charge at the decadent court of Versailles.
Armide's unfortunate love for Renaud, however, is conveyed with talent and flare. To my ears, this scene is a reflection of the people that surrounded Lully. It is passionate music yet able to impulsively change attitude quickly. It is also music that is able to control opinion. Without giving us reason to like Armide, in this scene we sympathize with her only because the music compels us to see the story from her point of view.
What I like about this scene is the way Lully represents air. Of course, the inclusion of noise (drums and wind machine) is an exciting element. But even the pitched instruments do well to evoke Armide's background and aides. The duple meter of the French overture does well in the music that opens the scene in dark, heavy air. When Armide asks her desires and demons to become zephyrs that will carry them to the end of the universe they do so in triple time.
Read also more about Renaud