Notes and Editorial Reviews
Includes synopsis in English. NO LIBRETTO.
"Laurent Petitgirard’s composing career stretches back to the 1970s. He has written a number of substantial orchestral scores as well as having an extensive catalogue of music for film and television (including the music for many episodes in the French ‘Maigret’ series and Otto Preminger’s ‘Rosebud’). Petitgirard has a parallel career as a conductor and was the music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de France from 1989 to 1996.
‘Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man’ is his first opera, written to a libretto by Eric Nonn. In it he explores the life of Joseph Merrick, made famous in the film ‘The Elephant Man’ but Petitgirard and Nonn say they have based their opera more on
the facts of Merrick’s life whereas David Lynch’s film was based on the memoirs of Dr. Treves, the doctor who supposedly rescues Merrick.
Petitgirard was attracted to the story because he wanted to deal with a dual personality. The opera portrays the duality between Merrick’s inner life and his physical appearance. This is a subject which seems to be highly suitable to Petitgirard’s technique as a composer. He is a supremely skilled orchestral technician, the orchestra plays a big role in the opera and Petitgirard uses it to some effect to comment upon and increase our knowledge of the characters. This has the useful effect of strengthening and deepening the continuous arioso in which the opera is written...
I loved Petitgirard’s very French sound-world and the musical style of this piece. In many ways it is old-fashioned. Musically its influences are French from the mid-20th century with barely a hint of Messiaen and Boulez. This style of writing has been decried in the past but times are changing and we are coming to realise that there is a place in our musical world for operas whose virtues include strong construction and secure understanding of the operatic form, along with fine musical craftsmanship.
All the singers in the opera are exemplary. Some, such as Sophie Koch as the Hospital matron, Eva Lukes, seem rather underused. But ultimately the show belongs to Rivenq’s outstanding Dr. Treves (he almost convinces us of Treves’ nobility of purpose) and to Natalie Stutzmann. Stutzmann’s low contralto voice is ideal for the role of Merrick, conveying a sense of his otherness and also, perhaps, giving a feeling for his lack of overt male sexuality due to his extreme disfigurement. Merrick sings far too little in the first half of the opera so that it is only very late on that we come to know him. Stutzmann brilliantly overcomes this problem with this role and delivers the final scene so powerfully that it is overwhelming. "
-- Robert Hugill, www.musicweb-international.com, December 2004
Works on This Recording
Joseph Merrick dit Elephant Man by Laurent Petitgirard
Nicolas Rivenq (Baritone),
Nathalie Stutzmann (Alto),
Sophie Koch (Mezzo Soprano),
Marie Devellereau (Soprano),
Nicolas Courjal (Bass),
Celena Nelson-Shafer (Soprano),
Damien Grelier (Tenor)
Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra,
National Theater Opera Chorus of Paris
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1996-1998; France
Length: 149 Minutes 19 Secs.
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