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John Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles

Teresa Perrotta, Peter Morgan et al; Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal/Joseph Colaneri (Versailles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

John Corigliano
The Ghosts of Versailles
Teresa Perrotta, Peter Morgan, Ben Schaefer, Jonathan Bryan, Spencer Britten, Kayla Siembieda, Joanna Latini, Emily Misch, Christian Sanders, Brian Wallin; Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal/Joseph Colaneri
Château de Versailles CVS 036   145:12 mins (2 discs)

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It was brave of John Corigliano to choose the French Revolution for a new opera for the Met in a century that that lauded André Chénier and Dialogues des Carmélites; and then to raise the cultural stakes by adding Mozart and Rossini to the mix after reworking the third of Beaumarchais’s Figaro plays. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and their court are ghosts at a performance of Figaro’s last adventure with the Almavivas plotting to rescue the queen from the Revolution.

William M Hoffman’s libretto is never as dramatically light-footed as Beaumarchais – indeed you sometimes long for the tumbrels to arrive and carry it off to the Place de la Révolution – while in the magpie manner of post-modernism his composer borrows from Mozart, Rossini and, indeed, Benjamin Britten in those glassy glissandos for the ghosts which seem to have slid out of A Mindsummer Night’s Dream. But the arias and ensembles which punctuate this chilly musical landscape are never less than tuneful. Corigiliano is, of course, a fine songwriter.

In this live recording from Louis XVI’s own theatre in the Château de Versailles, Marie Antoinette has the best of this music, and Teresa Perrotta touchingly evokes a lost life – so to speak. Jonathan Bryan is a busy Beaumarchais, and Ben Schaefer’s Figaro is, well, Figaro. And you cannot but admire the commitment that Joseph Colaneri and the musicians of the Orchestra de l’Opéra Royal bring to a score that looks as much backwards as forwards. Not so very different from the ancien régime really.

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Christopher Cook