, April 2010
Under director Ryan Brown, the Washington, D.C.-based ensemble Opera Lafayette brings a graceful, stylistically sure touch to a pair of French divertissements by François Rebel and François Francœur. First heard in 1745, the magic opera Zélindor, Roi des Sylphes (Zelindor, King of the Sylphs) and Le Trophée, a celebratory piece for King Louis XV, were popular and often-revived works incorporating song, chorus and dance. This world-premiere recording follows staged performances presented by Opera Lafayette in 2007, with color production shots offering a tantalizing glimpse of the charming, whimsical works in the theater.
Rebel and Francœur met in the violin section of the Paris Opera orchestra, having joined at the ages of thirteen and twelve, respectively, and became a successful composer team, in addition to sharing various cultural and administrative jobs. The one-act Zélindor features a magician (the expert stylist Jean-Paul Fouchécourt) who has fallen in love with a mortal (Heidi Grant Murphy). After enchanting the rocks and trees in her honor, he tests her love (remaining invisible), and the two celebrate their eventual union. Declamation slips easily into aria, and the sweeping “Comme un Zéphir,” with its fluttering triplets suggesting the breeze, is especially enchanting. Both Fouchécourt and the capable chorus sail nimbly through the vigorous, virtuoso “Que dans les airs,”…The playing of the Opera Lafayette Orchestra is spirited and fleet, from the overture (with wind machine) to the final dance movements, with fine detail and beautifully shaped phrases. Baritone William Sharp and soprano Ah Young Hong bring authority to smaller roles.