We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Gaële Le Roi, Kelly Ballou, Olivier Baumont, Laetitia de beck Spitzer, David Newman, Andrew Appel, Donna Fournier, and Ryan Brown
Ever since Opera Lafayette brought their imaginative opera double-bill to the Rose Theater in January (review can be found by using the search bar) we have eagerly awaited their return.  Friday night at Weill Recital Hall, they presented Part I of Celebrating Rameau: The Salon.  We will have to wait until next fall for Part II which will be a staged premiere of Rameau's ballet héroïque-- Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour ou Les Dieux d'Égypte.

Our experience with opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau is confined to a production of Platée in Santa Fe in 2007 and one several years earlier at the New York City Opera which we enjoyed tremendously.

Part I could be considered an appetizer; it was a red-letter day for lovers of Rameau.  Two superbly talented harpsichordists, Olivier Baumont and Andrew Appel, joined by Conductor and Artistic Director Ryan Brown on violin and Donna Fournier on viol, treated the audience to several interesting works and also accompanied the four singers--Gaële Le Roi, Kelly Ballou, Laetitia de beck Spitzer and David Newman.

Of the instrumental portion of the evening we were most impressed by some dances from Les Indes Galantes transcribed for two harpsichords; the textures were most compelling.  We would have loved to have seen the various dances performed by baroque dancers.

The vocal music was what we came to hear and the well-chosen singers brought Rameau's music to vivid life. The spectacle on stage was arresting: Baritone David Newman wore a suit and tie, Ms. Le Roi wore lingerie, Ms. Ballou wore office attire and Ms. Spitzer wore an evening gown!  We did not even try to fathom this but just enjoyed the splendid voices.

Mr. Newman sang an Air from the cantata Thétis to open the program and joined the women later on for three canons of which, we were told, the translations were too racy to print.  Naturally, that piqued our curiosity no end but careful listening provided nothing more than a few hints!

Ms. Ballou employed her lovely soprano for the romantic "L'Amante préoccupée"; "No, non le dieu qui sait aimer" sung by Ms. Spitzer, was of a more spirited nature; "Duo Bacchique" allowed Mr. Walker and Ms. Le Roi to exhibit their humorous sides.

The final work on the program was the Cantate pour le Jour de la Saint Louis, an expressive work in which Ms. Le Roi used her highly focused soprano to good advantage, accompanied by Mr. Beaumont and the strings.

It was a brief evening and a true "amuse bouche" as we wait for October 9th and the aforementioned premiere.  The date is already on our calendar.  How fortunate we are to have the D.C. based Opera Lafayette exploring the 18th c. French repertoire and playing it for us New Yorkers on period instruments.

ⓒ meche kroop

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