Notes and Editorial Reviews
Jérémie Rhorer, cond; Magali Léger (
); Claire Debono (
); Maryline Fallot (
); Frédéric Antoun (
); Brad Cooper (
); Vincent Billier (
class="ARIAL12">); Le Cercle de l’Harmonie
WAHOO 1 (DVD: 80: 00) Live: Versailles 2009
L’Amant jaloux, ou Les fausses Apparences
made its debut at Versailles in 1778. It was one of five works whose libretto was supplied by the Irish playwright Thomas Hales. Three of these were numbered among Grétry’s greatest successes: the current opera,
Le Jugement de Midas
(premiered earlier the same year), and
Les Événemens imprévus
is typical of its genre in its regular mix of mistaken identities and wrong conclusions visited upon two pairs of lovers, a benign father figure, and an easily panicked servant. However, the libretto does create an excellent vehicle for a composer adept in portraying a range of abruptly shifting sentiments, and so it proves here. Grétry mines each twist in every character’s emotions with an aria or ensemble of appropriate expressiveness and charm.
This Opéra Comique production is simple and traditional, but effective. Costumes are appropriate for the period. Thibaut Welchlin’s sets employ two-dimensional, heavily painted screens and few props. One creative moment should be mentioned: The fade to dark on a reconciled Leonore and Don Alonze, reclining on a couch, with Florival appearing from behind and above, as a small section of the stage wall slowly rises. Against a typically Watteau-like evening backdrop—darkness everywhere else—he sings the most celebrated number from the opera, the minor-key
serenade “Tandis que tout sommeille.”
The acting is always suitable, and in the case of Vincent Billier, very fine indeed. The cast sings well, with Claire Debono’s diamond focus and fearless attacks as effective as Magali Léger’s richer tone and greater dynamic range (despite occasional difficulties early on in handling Léonore’s tessitura). Billier’s voice is more baritonal than bass, but he has no problems handling any of the considerable low notes in his role, and demonstrates with ease how to interject shades of character in a
number without resorting to extramusical tricks. Frédéric Antoun’s agile, brighter tenor makes for an effective foil to that of Brad Cooper’s, and furnishes a stylishly lyrical rendition of the opera’s most frequently requested encore. Maryline Fallot is good in her part, if without the kind of Despina-like sparkle one could wish for. Jérémie Rhorer leads with spirit, but doesn’t try to rush the work’s numerous slow numbers of sentiment. Le Cercle de l’Harmonie is alert and enthusiastic, if occasionally a bit scrappy.
Martin Fraudreau’s camerawork is equally fine. There’s a mix of close-ups and long shots with plenty of attention paid to the
mise en scène
, rather than the usual obsession with waist-up and head-and-shoulder shots that dominates many operatic DVDs. Rather than always employing an audience-forward angle, diagonal shots across the stage are periodically applied to provide depth among the performers and variety of image.
There are no extras, not even a list of number-by-cut in the liner notes, just a brief summary of each act’s action. Liner notes are provided in French, English, Spanish, and German, with audio in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The video format is 16:9.
A fine evening’s entertainment, in other words. There’s precious little Grétry out there on DVD, just this and
Pierre le Grand
, which I gave a mixed review to in
29:2. Start here. It provides a good if incomplete idea of the composer’s merits, and is well worth the price.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
L'amant jaloux by André Modeste Grétry
Brad Cooper (Tenor),
Claire Debono (Soprano),
Magali Léger (Soprano),
Maryline Fallot (Soprano),
Frédéric Antoun (Tenor),
Vincent Billier (Bass Baritone)
Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Written: by 1778; France
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