Chantal Santon-Jeffery, François Rougier, Matthieu Lécroart, Manuel Núñez Camelino, Eugénie Lefebvre, Enguerrand de Hys, Jérôme Boutillier, Martine Lafdal-Franc; Orkester Nord/Martin Wåhlberg
Aparté AP214 87:01 mins (2 discs)
André Grétry (1741-1813) is one of those creative figures famous in his lifetime but nowadays little more than a name in reference books; yet he was a prolific and admired composer whose career began under the ancien régime and survived the Revolution to end in the Napoleonic era.
His comédie en trois actes et en prose (essentially an opéra comique, thus with spoken dialogue) opened in Paris just three months before the storming of the Bastille, and there’s already an implied criticism of the nobility in the subject of the wife-murdering aristocrat – though the tone of the piece is essentially that of a rescue opera treated in a comic-grotesque manner. In Paris in 1789 it was highly successful, going on to enjoy a wider career throughout Europe for more than 50 years: certainly the score’s atmosphere, sense of drama and numerous imaginative musical touches give this recording, made following live performances, the status of an eminently worthwhile revival.
The present production is a collaboration between the Centre de Musique Baroque at Versailles and the Trondheim-based period-instrument Orkester Nord; between them they do Grétry proud, with the ensemble’s playing first-rate and conductor Martin Wåhlberg maintaining consistently dynamic tempos. This is essentially an ensemble piece, and a capable company delivers it energetically – with no stars required. Dramatically the result is somewhat parodied, especially with Manuel Núñez Camelino making a meal of Raoul’s old servant Osman, though Matthieu Lécroart delivers a strong and apparently gentlemanly Raoul. One can imagine a production being brilliantly funny – in the right directorial hands.