Thursday, 10 July 2008

126. Andre-Ernest-Modest Grétry - Zémire et Azor (1771)


Title: Zémire et Azor
Performers: Mady Mesplé, Ronald Bufkens
Director: Edgard Doneux
Year: 1975
Length: 2 hours


Yesterday I discovered a good analogy for this when compared to Gluck's operas. Gluck's operas are like a wise old lady, you can learn a lot from them, they have interesting ideas but are slightly boring and certainly not attractive. This opera by Grétry is a blonde bimbo, very attractive, but nothing very interesting to say, certainly fun but you wouldn't want to marry it.

Grétry certainly learned something from Gluck, the overture is linked both musically and mood-wise with the rest of the opera, the chorus has no part in it, however, but the music is refreshingly simple, Grétry isn't really what you look for if you want great orchestration. There are, however some really nice arias here, almost folk like songs.

The arias by Ali are particularly funny, the famous aria of the Fauvette, with its coloratura has a lot of flash and is quite impressive. In the end you do feel like you just listened to the equivalent of an American Action Blockbuster, a good one, but still it is the explosions that get you, not the fine acting. The recording does not help tremendously, the voices are a bit outdated, sounding more like something from bel-canto than the early classical period. There is very little effort when it comes to historical authenticity, this was a play with music, but it uses continuo in sung recitatives, not present in Grétry's original... oh well.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

The French text was by Jean François Marmontel based on La belle et la bête (Beauty and the beast) by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, and Amour pour amour by P C Nivelle de La Chaussé. The opera includes the famous coloratura display piece La fauvette in which the soprano imitates birdsong. A suite of ballet music from the work was recorded by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Rufus Wainwright sings Du Moment qu'on aime:

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