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Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, June 2017

In truth this is a great example of how the best of the French school can be lighter than air, extraordinarily tuneful yet in no way insubstantial. A listen or two illuminates exactly how the opera delighted audiences the world over in the century between 1784-1884. It still has the power to charm, as Opera Lafayette show so convincingly.

Here is an opera that has the catchy accessibility of Rossini, yet a French lyrical dynamic at its core.

It is a beauty. And it has the Naxos price and quality. Take the jump if you want to explore a forgotten gem. © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, May 2017

…the four principal singers individually play their parts convincingly in terms of dramatic characterization, but not necessarily in relation to each other, which is partly due to differences in their voices and execution. Sophie Junker, who sings Denise, probably the opera’s major role, is a bit shrill on her highest notes, …Francisco Fernández-Rueda as André, on the other hand, sings with a beautifully honeyed, youthful sounding tenor voice…

The chorus doesn’t have much to do, but the Opera Lafayette choristers come to life when called upon to fulfill their civic duty as village peasants.

The Opera Lafayette Orchestra under Ryan Brown invests Grétry’s score with higher caliber playing than it probably deserves. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

James H. North
Fanfare, May 2017

Ryan Brown’s Opera Lafayette has been producing 18th-century French opera and various offshoots (Vivaldi, Chabrier) for more than 20 years. This Washington, DC period-instrument ensemble displays an easy mastery of the style, and its four able soloists fit in comfortably (nothing more is asked for by L’épreuve villageoise). …The recorded sound also fits the picture: comfortable if unexceptional. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Roger Pines
Opera News, May 2017

The cast presents an admirably united ensemble, yet without projecting a vividness of personality that could create a real “face” for the characters. The lighter-than-air timbre of Spanish tenor Francisco Fernández-Rueda (André) suits the French language, but more impressive is French baritone Thomas Dolié (M. de la France), who enhances his mellow sound with elegant legato style whenever required. Belgian soprano Sophie Junker sings Denise with a rather anonymous light lyric timbre, her text rather neutrally uttered. Fast-rising American soprano Talise Trevigne (Mme. Hubert), who has comparatively little to do here, is vocally soft-grained but attractively warm-toned. © 2017 Opera News Read complete review

Elliot Fisch
American Record Guide, March 2017

This performance is a complete success. The singers are excellent and know how to stress the comic elements and keep the plot light and fluffy. Ryan Brown conducts the orchestra and chorus in a fleet-footed manner. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, February 2017

The Opera Lafayette chorus and orchestra are by now well-known quantities in the field of eighteenth century opera recordings and the four soloists are very good. It is indeed fascinating to discover that there are still previous unrecorded operas that are resurrected and turn out to be well worth hearing.

There are obviously new finds to be made and L’épreuve villageoise is wholly delightful. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Richard Lawrence
Gramophone, February 2017

The orchestra comprises woodwind and horns plus strings, with a prominent piccolo in the Vaudeville. It is all delightfully done by Opera Lafayette, an American period ensemble which has also recorded operas by Monsigny and Philidor as well as Grétry’s Le Magnifique. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone, December 2016

Ryan Brown and Opera Lafayette specialize in rediscovering lost (or simply misplaced) works of the 18th century, and this particular one is an especially happy find, zipping along with beguiling jauntiness. It never attains, or seeks, any deep meaning, but makes it clear that bringing pleasure to the audience is what is foremost in the composer’s mind. © 2016 Read complete review

Robert Levine, December 2016

Sophie Junker’s bright voice is ideal for Denise; Talise Trevigne’s more darkly colored tone gives Mme Hubert a certain wisdom. Thomas Dolié sings with “attitude” and a fine baritone, while André is sung by a rather timid Francisco Fernandez-Rueda. © 2016 Read complete review

Records International, December 2016

First performed before Marie Antoinette at Versailles, this was one of Grétry’s most popular works. For a century after its 1784 première it enjoyed huge acclaim across Europe and even travelled to the New World, where it captivated audiences in New York. Grétry was a master of eighteenth-century opéra comique and this crisp and lively farce centres on a clever farmer’s daughter and her two competing suitors. Employing divergent stylistic registers—finesse and naiveté, music reminiscent of popular song, and extended ensembles—Grétry fashioned a score of sophisticated wit and huge charm. Libretto and translation available on-line. © 2016 Records International

Lynn René Bayley
The Art Music Lounge, November 2016

…Belgian Sophie Junker, has that old-fashioned sort of “French soprano” voice with a fast flicker-vibrato, a type of voice I thought had died out. I like it very, very much; it has character, and not just because of her timbre. Junker is a very lively singer and invests her role with a charming personality.

Our tenor, Fernández-Rueda, also has a light voice, almost of the type we now consider a “comprimario,” yet of good enough quality to manage Grétry’s light, pointed score, written as if by pin-pricks. …Both our second soprano, Talise Trevigne (Madame Hubert) and baritone, Thomas Dolié (Monsieur de la France) have fine voices as well, which makes the whole production sparkle under the baton of Ryan Brown. Yes, the orchestra plays with “straight tone,” but they also play with an utterly charming style, pointing the music and infusing it with subtle dynamics changes. © 2016 The Art Music Lounge Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2016

By the close of the Nineteenth century, André Grétry had become France’s best known and prolific opera composer working both in drama and fashionable comedy. He was to compose more than fifty scores that combined both Italian influences and the need to please Parisian audiences who were attending the theatre that became known as the Opera-comique. He was fortunate at the age of twenty-six to be offered a libretto for Le Huron by the celebrated writer Jean-François Marmontel, the opera proving an instant success and a springboard for a career that continued for more than 30 years. Nowadays, he is largely forgotten, that opera being the only one I have seen in a life spent chasing little known works. It was basically a ‘serious’ opera, but those that followed were mostly comedies, and when he tried to move back to less frivolous stories, as in Theodore et Paulin, it proved to be a one-performance failure. Strip out the drama, leave the comic sub-plot, re-brand it as L’epreuve villageoise (The Village Trial), and it became a success in Paris and far beyond. Even that did not give it perpetuity, this new performing version for the American-based company, Opera Lafayette, resulting in the first staged production in modern times, and it also makes for a very pleasing disc. The plot is of a daughter and her widowed mother who set about punishing the wealthy Monsieur Le France after they discover he has been wooing both of them. I suppose Naxos would have been censured had they included the reams of spoken French dialogue, though with twenty-five minutes playing time remaining on the disc, it would then have resulted in a definitive disc close to Gretry’s original. What we do have—I think—is all of the music, the fast flutter in the voice of the Belgium soprano, Sophie Junker, well-suited to the young daughter, Denise, while Talise Trevigne, as the mother, has the more weighty and cleanly focused quality. The French baritone, Thomas Dolie, makes the best of his part as the philandering, Le France, though the major ‘discovery’ is the outstanding young Spanish lyric tenor, Francisco Fernandez-Rueda, as the ‘country-boy’, Andre. The Lafayette chamber orchestra is all that could be desired, Ryan Brown’s conducting keeping the action moving. The sound quality is very good. © 2016 David’s Review Corner

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