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BLO Englishizes L’amant anonyme – The Boston Musical Intelligencer – Lyric Say

Valcour (Omar Najmi) opines to Jeannette (Ashlee Emerson) (Nile Scott Studios photograph)

The Boston Lyric Opera’s charming manufacturing of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges’s solely surviving opera, The Nameless Lover (1780), ran on the Huntington Theater final weekend. The present continued the BLO’s 2023-2024, four-opera exploration of affection follows the widow Léontine (Brianna J. Robinson) who begins receiving letters from an nameless admirer. Her secret lover, obscuring his identification out of worry of unreciprocated feelings, is none apart from Léontine’s shut good friend, Valcour (Omar Najmi). A comedic dance of courtship ensues between the 2 as Valcour covertly persuades Léontine to like once more. Whereas the leads regularly inch nearer to romance, love appears inescapable within the surrounding characters. Jeanette (Ashley Emerson) and Colin (Zhengyi Bai) symbolize the archetypal doting couple professing the thrill of affection in a marvelously rendered duet at their marriage ceremony. Even the comedic aid duo of Dorothée (Sandra Piques Eddy) and Ophémon (Evan Hughes) discover themselves falling for one another all through the chaotic revelry of courtship.

The works of Chevalier de Saint-Georges, arguably essentially the most influential Black composer and violinist in 18th-century France and a up to date of Mozart, have loved a crucial and common renaissance lately. The Hollywood movie Chevalier (2022) allowed the composer to make a mark in popular culture. The BLO’s continued this renaissance with a becoming and rousing story for Valentine’s weekend.

Within the trendy world of the humanities, it has been en vogue to mount trendy flashy productions of centuries-old tales whereas sustaining the unique textual content. Baz Luhrmann’s movie Romeo + Juliet (1996) involves thoughts as however one common instance, however such directorial conceits have lengthy frequented the opera world as nicely, with Dmitri Tcherniakov’s 2018 course of Tristan und Isolde on the Staatsoper Berlin or Robert Carsen’s 2018 course of Giulo Cesare in Egitto on the Teatro alla Scala coming to thoughts as a number of of many examples.

The BLO’s rendition of The Nameless Lover flips this pattern on its head by sustaining period-piece costumes and set designs whereas altering the libretto. Playwright Kirsten Greenidge offered a brand new guide adaptation that blended English dialogue with the unique French singing. Whereas Greenidge achieved a commendable feat of writing simply understandable English for a contemporary American viewers that also maintained the texture and emotion of 18th-century dialogue, the largest drawback with the manufacturing rested within the resolution to make use of English.

Whereas aiding comprehension and accessibility, switching from belting arias of summary declarations and musings on love sung in 18th-century French to vernacular English for mundane dialogue whiplashed the emotional core. Opposing narratives competed, with every actor seeming to play two totally different characters. English Valcour and French Valcour felt like two unrelated individuals. Think about how dissonant a film could be if the principle character all of the sudden switched their dialect and accent with no narrative clarification.

Many occasions a tear-jerking aria or duet would give solution to dialogue working on a separate emotional beat. This isn’t to belittle the English parts, though they have been definitely trumped by the brilliance of the singing, quite they did not cohere with the French moments to provide a unified narrative. Hughes treaded these dissonant narratives finest, delivering the most effective performing of the manufacturing with an emotionally constant characterization throughout each languages that induced a lot laughter. However the coronary heart of the story lies within the budding romance between Valcour and Léontine and although Omar Najmi sang and acted impressively and movingly his scenes of English dialogue didn’t persuade me that his character was in love.

To viewers members accustomed to her latest work as Julie in Omar, it got here as no shock that Brianna Robinson stole the present. Whereas Najmi’s singing proved notable, Robinson took the highlight from the titular character together with her virtuosic and soulful vocal management. Within the English scenes her performing took second place solely to Hughes; she satisfied us together with her transformation to a girl who learns to just accept love as soon as extra.

Whereas the set design and lighting splendidly evoked 18th -century bourgeois France, Leslie Travers’s costume design should be singled out. Léontine’s robes appeared regal but not flashy. The chamber orchestra, positioned behind the actors on stage and separated by a backdrop, additionally impressed with a period-appropriate understated and assured efficiency guided by the infallible baton of long-time BLO Music Director David Angus.

Although the manufacturing confronted problems with narrative emotional resonance, I commend the spirit of experimentation. Working an missed historic work from a marginalized writer like Chevalier de Saint-Georges, which lacks centuries of canonical performances and expectations, welcomes new views. And we applaud BLO’s understanding that not each present must be a masterpiece.

The Forged of BLO’s The Nameless Lover (Nile Scott Studios photograph)

The English portion of the manufacturing works by itself, but it surely clashes towards the French singing to the detriment of the story. Maybe after extra workshopping the English can develop into extra emotionally French or the French extra English, however in the end the answer doubtless lies in returning to the unique libretto of Desfontaines-Lavallée (based mostly on a play by Madame de Genlis). Witty supertitles can free the singular music to enchantment to each newcomers and opera veterans.

The BLO’s will shut its season on love with Eurydice: music by Matthew Aucoin and libretto by Sarah Ruhl. Performances will run March 1st -10th on the Huntington. Tickets HERE.

Matthew Winkler is learning music and historical past at Tufts college. He’s a composer and researcher who additionally performs jazz and classical trumpet. 

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