Saint-Georges: L’Amant anonyme
Nicole Cabell, Geoffrey Agpalo, David Govertsen, Erica Schuller, Michael St. Peter, Nathalie Colas; Haymarket Opera Company/Craig Trompeter (Çedille)
L’Amant anonyme (The Anonymous Lover)
Nicole Cabell, Geoffrey Agpalo, David Govertsen, Erica Schuller, Michael St. Peter, Nathalie Colas; Haymarket Opera Company/Craig Trompeter
Çedille CDR 90000 217 170:31 mins (3 discs)
Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the bi-racial 18th-century composer, violinist, champion fencer and much else, has finally started to gain due recognition – albeit, almost exclusively through his instrumental works. With this first complete recording of L’Amant anonyme, his only opera to survive largely intact, we get a more rounded sense of this remarkable composer.
First heard in 1780, L’Amant anonyme centres around Léontine and Valcour. The latter makes anonymous advances, so a ‘love triangle’ forms between just the two of them. Each has a confidante, Ophémon and Dorothée respectively, while two villagers, Jeannette and Colin, provide an exemplar of pure love. It is a prime exemplar of French galant opera, complete with prominent ballet interludes and music that’s inventive, spirited and frequently touching.
Drawing on Chicago-based Haymarket Opera Company’s 2022 production, this presents a strong cast and an incisive period-instrument ensemble with finely-judged pacing from Craig Trompeter. Nicole Cabell is superb as Léontine, floating effortlessly upward in ‘Son amour’ as she recollects her anonymous suitor’s gifts before recalling her fearsome anger at his impudence. Geoffrey Agpalo is thoroughly engaging as Valcour, David Govertson is sympathetic as Ophémon, while Erica Schuller’s crystalline clarity conveys Jeannette’s youthful joy matched by Michael St. Peter’s spritely Colin. In all, this set does Saint-Georges proud.