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Francois-Andre Danican Philidor: Les Femmes Vengées
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The first performances of Les Femmes Vengées (The Avenged Women) in 1775 restored the fortunes of Francois-André Danican Philidor, which had been wavering since the great success of Tom Jones a decade earlier. His opéra-comique, which foreshadows the plot of Mozarts Così fan tutte (Mozart had been in Paris during the first performances of Philidors work), offers delicious opportunities for mock-indignation and repartee in its arias and ensembles. This recording presents the complete music. Opera Lafayette and Ryan Browns recording of Philidors Sancho Pança [8.660274] was hailed as a witty, authentic interpretation by the American Record Guide.
"A cast of young, energetic singers brings this miniature comedy to life with Opera Lafayette." --Clara O'Brien / Lance Hulme, The Magazine of Early Music America Vo. 22 No. 1, Spring 2016
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The Opera Lafayette performed Philidor's 1775 opera" Les Femmes Vengees" in 2014 in New York City and Paris. Philidor (1726 -- 1795) wrote many comic operas and other works, but his music has become obscure. The Opera Lafayette has made an earlier recording of his opera "Sancho Panza". Philidor is better-known as the greatest chess player of his day than as a composer. He wrote a treatise on the game, and he is an iconic early figure for those interested in chess.
"Les Femmes Vengees" is scored for six singers, three men and three women, without a chorus. The opera's spoken dialogue has been eliminated in the recording but Philidor's music is presented in full. The libretto is by one Michale-Jean Sedaine (1719-1797), snd the opera has many resemblances to Mozart's opera "Cosi Fan Tutti". The Opera Lafayette presented this opera live as part of a double-bill with an abridged version of "Cosi".
The story is about two philandering men who try to seduce the wife of a powerful friend. The wife sets up an elaborate scenario in which her husband attempts to seduce the wives of the two philanderers with apparent success while they are hidden away in an adjoining room. The plan is eventually revealed, the wrongdoing men are forgiven and matters are set right.
Philidor's music for the opera is more in the style of Italian or early classical writing than of French Baroque. It is light, quick-paced and frothy. It opens with a lively overture followed by eighteen vocal numbers for solo, duet, trio, quartet and sextet. The music evidences various moods. Each of the singers, including sopranos Claire Debono and Pascale Beaudin, mezzo-soprano Blandine Staskiewicz, tenors Jeffery Thompson and Antonio Figueroa and baritone Alex Dobson give excellent, idiomatic performances. Brown and the Ensemble offer idiomatic conducting and orchestral support.
The music is fun and easy to hear but not especially memorable. Most listeners will enjoy getting to hear this work but probably will see no need to revisit it frequently. The Opera Lafayette has done a service in preserving this work through this recording; but its primary appeal will be to lovers of French baroque and early classical music with a good musical background in these periods. The CD includes a synopsis of the opera and a discussion of the musical numbers. The Naxos website includes the libretto and translation. Naxos kindly sent me a review copy of this CD.
Total Time: 67:20