for soprano(c'-a''), violin/flute and bc
Europa, who was renowned for her beauty, was the daughter of the Phoenician king of Tyre, Agenor. According to some myths she was the daughter of Thetis, with whom Zeus was also love-struck, but who resisted his advances. (see Rameau’s Thétis, Green Man Press, Ref Ram 2). Zeus (=Jupiter) carries her off on his back to Crete, where she becomes its first queen.
The cantata, with its alternation of recitative with da capo arias on the Italian model, is typical of Montéclair’s works, and his arias, as Anthony points out, generally show that he “treated the Italian form with great originality”. The first two arias here have extended A sections in three parts, with repeated use of a ritornello passage, and a development of the original vocal motif, which exemplifies this. The first aria, marked Gay, describes the descent of Jupiter, and his transforming himself into the form of a bull. The second, marked Gracieusement, exhorts the powers that live in the seas (the Tritons and Nereids) to assist and protect the lovers as they cross the ocean. The connecting recitative describes Europa’s enticement to go with her bull. The final recitative describes, with great delicacy, how Europa finally succumbs to his charms. As is usual in French cantatas, the final aria points the ‘moral’. To succeed in love, one must leave aside one’s elevated status – “Love and majesty do not go together”!