A charming Gallic trifle, performed with panache - nothing more, nothing less
Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin (sometimes spelt Wekerlin) is a name that appears occasionally in recital programmes, usually towards the end when high seriousness has had its hour and the time of small things has come round. In the mid-to-late 19th century he arranged traditional airs and composed pastiches, reviving the graces of a bygone age while permitting their incidental enrichment with the harmonic resources of his own. He also (and this will be news to most of us) wrote operas and, in 1858, this
opérette de salon set in the Petit Trianon of Marie-Antoinette's Versailles. It was performed in the Parisian home of Rossini at theRead more first of his celebrated Saturday evenings, and it is (of course) charming.
The characters meet, mistake identities, indulge in a little harmless trickery and come out smiling, and in love. The voices, soprano and tenor, are to be light but well trained; their owners should also be young, personable and civilised. The pianist who accompanies them does not need to be a virtuoso but must be accomplished, sympathique and stylish.
All suit very well here, the singers dealing elegantly with their decorative flights, the pianist giving a neat lift to the melodies and rhythms. The librettist, afforded more prominence in the original playbill than the composer, was the cheerfully named Galoppe d'Onquaire, and his words are looked after with the same idiomatic care as Weckerlin's music. To Jeremy Commons goes the credit for research that prompted the recording and it is him, once again, we have to thank for an uncommonly well informed introductory essay.
It's a graceful, amiable piece of light entertainment. Not much to think about - except perhaps to wonder how the intelligentsia gathered in the Parisian salons of 1858 could contemplate pretty playtime at Versailles without a shuddering awareness of the shadow. The Queen is mentioned, of whom Carlyle wrote "fair young daughter of Time, what things has Time in store for thee!"