|Andrew Appel, Andre Courville, Sherezade Panthaki, Patricia Forelle, Ryan Brown, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, Robert Getchell, and Victor Sicard|
We are always excited when Opera Lafayette comes to town. Just when we start to believe that we know a lot about opera, we find an entirely new territory to stimulate and engage us. Opera Lafayette brings before us baroque works from France, always cast with exceptional singers.
Last night at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium of the Metropolitan Museum of Art we heard the final entree of Jean-Philippe Rameau's 1736 ballet heroique --Les Indes Galantes. Louis Fuzelier's libretto is an interesting one in that it lauds the simplicity and sincerity of the natives of the New World, while decrying the colonialism of the Europeans.
As a curtain raiser for the vocal part of the evening, we heard several musical selections from the Prologue and the first three entrees. The musical selections shone with infinite variety of rhythms and an inexhaustible supply of melodies. We supplied the visuals in our mind's eye and had great fun choreographing and costuming the imaginary dancers.
But it was the vocal part that we had come to hear, predominantly because one of our favorite young artists, bass-baritone Andre Courville, would be making his debut with Opera Lafayette. We have heard Mr. Courville sing dozens of roles but never anything of the baroque period. Let it be said right away that he performed admirably in the role of Dom Alvar, a Spanish prince come to court the native girl Zima.
His rival, Damon was finely performed by Robert Getchell. The two men exhibited radically different style of courtship and Zima, wonderfully performed by Sherezade Panthaki, wisely threw both of them over for her tribal compatriot Adario, performed by Victor Sicard with fine tone and dignity of character.
Like Goldilocks, Zima found one European suitor to be too indifferent, the other too persevering, and Adario to be just right! Ms. Panthaki's warmly colored soprano and expressive phrasing made us cheer her on. There was something about her expressiveness that reminded us of Indian dancers we have seen who can make the slightest movement speak volumes.
As one might expect, the French of the singers was perfect and understandable without the titles. Similarly, the phrasing took on a special Gallic sensitivity.
Unfortunately, the chorus (Gallery Voices) in the first part of the program did not enunciate clearly and we did not understand un seul mot!
Direction by Dietlinde Turban Maazel was effective considering the narrow sliver of stage in front of the orchestra with which she had to work. Patricia Forelle's costumes were colorful and a propos to the period.
Ryan Brown, Founder and Artistic Director of Opera Lafayette, conducted and played the violin. Andrew Appel provided the harpsichord continuo along with the cello of Loretta O'Sullivan. The orchestral music was lovely.
We would have liked a closer look at the unusual wind instruments, especially the taille d'hautbois, a kind of alto oboe, and a wooden flute. The sound of original instruments fell softly on the ear. There is so much to learn about music of this period!
(c) meche kroop