DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

ANDRÉ GRÉTRY: The Jealous Lover (complete opera) (2010)

Who is Grétry? Read on, and enjoy a wonderful production.

Published on February 13, 2013

ANDRÉ GRÉTRY: The Jealous Lover (complete opera) (2010)

ANDRÉ GRÉTRY: The Jealous Lover (complete opera) (2010)

Magali Léger (Léonore)/ Claire Debono (Isabelle)/ Maryline Fallot (Jacinte)/ Frédéric Antoun (Florival)/ Brad Cooper (Don Alonze)/ Vincent Billier (Don Lopez)/ Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/ Jérémie Rhorer
Director: Pierre-Emmanuel Rousseau
Studio: Opera Comique/ Wahoo WAH001 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 Color
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo, DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, German
All Regions
Length: 120 minutes
Rating: *****

André Ernest Modeste Grétry (8 February 1741 – 24 September 1813) was a composer from Belgium, who worked from 1767 onwards in France and took French nationality. His first successes at composition were in the area of operetta, and he finally decided to concentrate on the French opera-comique. He left Rome in 1767, where he had enjoyed the tutelage of luminaries such as Baldassarre Galuppi, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, and others, along with direct instruction in keyboard, composition, and organ, while singing as a choirboy earlier in the church of Saint-Denis. Here he also enjoyed his first operatic successes as well before embarking on his destined journey to France; whereupon he was even to become Marie-Antoinette’s harpsichord teacher.

While there he became the leading exponent of comic opera in Paris, producing well over 50 operas, many attuned to the political and social concerns of the time, yet always well suited to individual character traits and the foibles of mixed ensemble interactions, where he really excelled. Few were as adept at creating situations where human conflicts and misunderstandings could be exploited, often to great hilarity.

The Jealous Lover, or False Appearances was produced in 1778 for Versailles. Irish playwright Thomas Hales wrote the libretto, itself based on the play The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret (1714) by Susannah Centlivre. Some musicologists suggest that Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte were familiar with the work and that it influenced portions of Le Nozze de Figaro. It has to be admitted that many of the work’s passages do have a familiar Figaro ring to them, though the opera in no way approaches the complexity of Mozart’s masterpiece. This is not to denigrate Grétry, who is fully his own man and manages his own situations with a lot of wit, sparkle, and some very inspired and beautiful music. The opera itself is a crazed mix of mistaken assumptions and love triangles gone amuck, yet the small number of characters means that the audience never loses track of what is happening.

This video, recorded at Versailles, features the greatly acclaimed new African-French soprano Magali Léger, who recently made her New York debut—and she does not disappoint, fully absorbing Grétry’s perilous runs and exposed high notes. She is also quite the actress, and I could imagine her putting across the role even without the music (this is a sort of singspiel with lots of spoken dialog). In fact it is impossible to fault any member of the cast as all are superb, and the orchestra shines in Grétry’s manic and gorgeous music. This is the perfect way to make the acquaintance of this composer, and you will be better for it. Sound is wonderful, and the filming intimate and serving of the plot.

—Steven Ritter

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