Félicien David was a pioneer of 19th century musical orientalism, and Lalla Roukh (1862) was his masterpiece. The opera achieved immense popularity immediately upon its première in Paris and was performed all over Europe throughout the rest of the century. This is the world première recording of this enchanting work. - Ryan Brown
French opera owes much of its obsession with exoticism to the pivotal figure of Félicien David, a pioneer of ‘musical Orientalism’. His opera Lalla Roukh, first performed to huge acclaim in 1862, was the catalyst for the explosion in operas set in the ‘Exotic East’. The fairy-tale plot revolves around an Indian princess who travels to Bukhara (part of modern Uzbekistan) to meet the man to whom she is to be given in marriage. Along the way she falls in love with the minstrel Noureddin who is, in fact, the King of Bukhara in disguise. David’s evocative and magical orchestration is harnessed to memorable melodies, including Lalla Roukh’s deftly harmonized arias ‘Sous le feuillage sombre’ and ‘O nuit d’amour’.
Listen to an excerpt from track 3 Melodie: Sous le feuillage sombre (Lalla Roukh)
About the Artists
Through his work with Opera Lafayette, Ryan Brown has gained an international reputation for his interpretations of French opera, and in particular for his rôle in the revival of works from the eighteenth century. His repertoire and discography for Naxos include masterpieces by Rameau and Gluck, rediscoveries of their contemporaries Rebel/Francoeur and Sacchini, works by Lully and Charpentier exemplifying traditions established in the seventeenth century, and operas by Monsigny and Grétry which point the way toward the music of the nineteenth century. His interpretations of Italian works by Paisiello, Cimarosa, Haydn and Mozart have also met with great acclaim.
Opera Lafayette is an American period-instrument ensemble founded in 1995 in Washington, DC, by conductor and artistic director Ryan Brown. The New York Times has said, “Opera Lafayette…has built a sterling reputation through specialising in rarities by Gluck, Grétry and the like.” Opera Lafayette’s season includes performances at major venues in Washington and New York City. At the invitation of Château de Versailles Spectacles, Opera Lafayette made its international début at the Opéra Royal in February 2012 with the modern world première of Monsigny’s Le Roi et le fermier.
Also available from Ryan Brown and Opera Lafayette
Le Roi et le fermier made Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny famous in France and beyond. Set in an evocative and at times stormy Sherwood Forest it tells of a King’s encounter with a humble farmer, blending comedy with serious issues. Its numerous innovations foreshadow Romanticism, making it a milestone in operatic history, with librettist Michel-Jean Sedaine admiring Monsigny’s daring in taking “the risk of setting a new genre to music”. “This production should be noted and remembered in the annals of Versailles, for the intelligence of its staging, the beauty of its sets, and its high musical quality.” (Opéra Magazine)
“Opera Lafayette Orchestra and Opera Lafayette Artistic Director Ryan Brown again prove incomparably stylish interpreters of music like that of Le Roi et le fermier.” – Voix des Arts
“quality revival of Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny’s forgotten opera ‘Le Roi et le Fermier’, with solid singing and fine orchestral playing” – Pizzicato
MONSIGNY Le Deserteur William Sharp, Dominique Labelle, Ann Monoyios, David Newman
Opera Lafayette Orchestra, Ryan Brown
Monsigny and Sedaine’s brilliant opéra-comique Le Déserteur, was an immediate and lasting success for its melodic charms and musical variety, its blend of comedy with moments of great sentiment and pathos, and its intellectual radicalism prefiguring the humanitarian ideas of the 19th century Romantics. This recording features the musical items only from this forerunner of the ‘rescue’ opera, in which the heroine Louise extricates her fiancé Alexis from prison and a death sentence. A written explanation of the action between the airs is provided in the booklet.
“charming curiosity” – The Washington Post
GRETRY Le Magnifique Emiliano Gonzalez Toro, Elizabeth Calleo, Marguerite Krull,
Jeffrey Thompson, Karim Sulayman, Douglas Williams, Randall Scarlata
Opera Lafayette Orchestra, Ryan Brown
André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry was the greatest French composer of opéra-comique in the eighteenth century. His librettist for Le Magnifique, Jean-Michel Sedaine, took a tale by La Fontaine and fashioned it into a compelling libretto. Grétry responded with an outstanding score, including one of the first programmatic overtures in musical history. His expressive love music, and extended preludes and postludes, add to the theatrical variety of this important and varied opera.
“This recording is an unexpected delight [...] Bravo, one and all!” – Fanfare
“The recording is a delight, with youthful voices in full cry.” – American Record Guide
Armide represents the culmination of the long and fruitful career of Jean-Baptiste Lully, the most powerful musician at the court of Louis XIV and the first important composer of French opera. Though not his final composition, Armide was his last complete tragédie en musique and the last work he wrote in collaboration with librettist Philippe Quinault. It was an instant and enduring success: a crowd-pleaser at its initial production and a perennial favourite of audiences and critics in the 18th century.
“spirited pacing” – Opera News
“A new American edition presents Lully’s sorceress in a fresh light.” – Gramophone