L'amant jaloux

Grétry

Information

L’amant jaloux
(The Jealous Lover)
Comédie mêlée d’ariettes in three acts
Music by André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813)
Libretto by Thomas Hales
English translation by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray

First performance at Versailles, 20 November 1778

The Deanery garden, Bampton, 20 & 21 July 2012
The Orangery Terrace, Westonbirt, 26 August 2012
Marsh Court, Hampshire, 15 September 2012
St John’s, Smith Square, 18 September 2012

Cast

Lopez, a Spanish merchant

Oliver Dunn

Jacinte, Léonore’s maid

Máire Flavin

Florival, a French officer

Oliver Mercer

Isabelle, Léonore’s friend

Martene Grimson

Léonore, Lopez’ widowed daughter, in love with Alonze

Aoife O’Sullivan

Don Alonze, a Spanish gentleman and Isabelle’s brother

Robert Anthony Gardiner

   

Costumes

Fiona Hodges

Repetiteur

Paul Wingfield

Conductor

Andrew Griffiths

Director/Designer

Jeremy Gray

   

 

The Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera (July, August)

 

CHROMA (September)

Synopsis

The rich merchant Don Lopez, recently returned to his home in Cadiz, has sound business reasons for not wanting his young, widowed daughter Léonore to remarry. However, she is in love with the insanely jealous Don Alonze. Isabelle, Alonze's sister and Léonore's friend, has escaped from her guardian who wants to marry her by force. Assisted by the intervention of the dashing French officer Florival, Isabelle takes refuge with Léonore. Forced to hide in the wardrobe (Lopez has banned brother and sister from the house) she is assumed by the jealous Alonze to be Léonore’s secret lover.
Léonore swears to have no more to do with Alonze. Florival arrives at the house in search of the mysterious stranger he has saved, with whom he is now in love. Unfortunately the maid Jacinte has inadvertently confused him and he believes his beloved’s name to be Léonore. Alonze and Léonore manage to patch up their relationship until they are interrupted by Florival serenading his ‘Léonore’: furious jealousy is once again aroused.
Florival and Alonze confront each other in the garden at night. They are both relieved to find they are not rivals when Alonze finally recognises his sister. Alonze has just come into an inheritance which allows him to marry Léonore, and Florival marries Isabelle.

Reviews

... first class
Opera, September 2012

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... first class

Opera, September 2012

In her feature on Bampton in the July issue (pp804-8) Fiona Maddocks cited earlier praise in these pages – ‘a serious business with remarkable artistic standards’.  Quite so, which, allied to the welcome absence of formality of dress or show-off picnics and the beauty of the Deanery garden, sends it right to the top of my list of, well, ‘country-garden’ opera.

This delightful opéra-comique double bill of Philidor and Grétry respectively was both enjoyable and instructive.  How to tell a story through a mixture of words and music?  At a basic level, one way is to ensure that cues between the two are instantly picked up, which they were, one of the best features of Jeremy Gray’s amiable and unpretentious productions, given his own (ditto, ditto) translations.  Formal arias are few in number, so the action moves forward, briskly, seamlessly.  The Philidor tells of the impoverished cobbler and his wife outwitting their rapacious landlords, the Pinces; the Grétry is a case of mistaken identity, and you can’t hep feeling that Mozart must have heard it in Paris – the wrong person emerging from a closet and exactly the same rhythm in everyone’s reactions is perhaps a coincidence too far.

Musical standards were first-class; the company orchestra played quite beautifully for Andrew Griffiths in music that may look simple on the page (it isn’t) but which offers many opportunities to imaginative players and conductor.  The tented band was to one side of the stage area, and the singers were sometimes quite distant from physical abd confidence-building orchestral support, in which respect they all deserve praise for the security of their tuning and ensemble.  There was some excellent singing, especially from three fine sopranos. Aoife O’Sullivan doubled as the landlord’s wife in the Philidor and Léonore in the Grétry, absolutely secure and well-tuned in her show-off coloratura aria in the latter.  The same must be said of Martene grimson as the mistake-identity Isabelle and the cobbler’s wife.  Máire Flavin not only sang beautifully but was also richly comic as a savvy maid from across the Irish Sea in the Grétry.

Oliver Dunn was outstanding amongst the gentlemen as the heavy father in the Grétry, beautifully warm sound, clear diction and a confident stage manner.  Robert Anthony Gardiner as the cobbler made the most of the bravura aria in which he pretends to the landlord concealed in a cupboard that he is abusing his (absent) wife, supplying her pained reaction in falsetto – one of Philidor’s best numbers; he was also properly impulsive as Grétry’s jealous lover.  The tenor liver Mercer was both the landlord and the French officer Florival – towards the end of the evening he had the exquisite Serenade, but was placed (unnecessarily) some distance from his mandolin accompanist and, starting to tire, occasionally faltered in pitch. And why was he made to look so scruffy in Gray’s production, which updated the action to the 20th century?  Odd.  The Philidor was staged in period but, with its beady-eyed view of rapacious landlords, could have benefited from updating.  That might not have gone down well with Bampton Classical Opera’s patron, the local MP, one David Cameron.

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Rodney Milnes

 

…truly serious about comedy
Opera Today, October 2012

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…truly serious about comedy

Opera Today, October 2012

Two classic French comedies, one wardrobe…” was Bampton Classical Opera’s billing for this amusing double bill and, with typically wry wit, director Jeremy Gray duly placed a shabby-chic armoire centre-stage and made it the location of some Cherubino-Countess-style confusions and Goldoni-esque farce.

François-André Danican Philidor (1726-95) was a versatile chap: he is probably best known today as a chess master with a sophisticated set of opening moves to his name — the Philidor Defence. But, a member of a talented musical family, he also found employment at the Royal Chapel at Versailles (where he first made his mark by beating the older musicians at chess!) and was a leading exponent of the evolving genre of opéra comique. Indeed, his first opera Blaise le savetier might be judged to have marked the launch of opéra comique; moreover, both the operas in the programme seem to have anticipated (and perhaps inspired?) Mozart.

Blaise le savetier commences à la Figaro with a ‘domestic’. Young, handsome but penniless, Blaise and his vivacious wife Blaisine must battle not only against poverty but also against the predatory attentions of their rapacious landlords, Mr and Mrs Pinch. The latter are aptly named, for they squeeze every last penny and attempt to coax sexual favours from their young tenants.
Many of Philidor’s arias are quite short, interposed between the spoken dialogue, but they establish character deftly and several make effective use of the woodwind to add individuality. Martene Grimson (her real-life pregnancy adding a wry frisson to the drama!) was superb as Blaisine: her principal aria was tender and lyrical, and she acted convincingly and engagingly. As the landlord’s grasping wife, Aoife O’Sullivan brought sparkle and energy to the role. Robert Anthony Gardiner was a wily, relaxed Blaise, delivering the text crisply, and projecting clearly and with pleasing tone. He made the most of his virtuoso number, enjoying a duet with himself as he supplied his wife’s responses in resplendent falsetto counterfeit.

Philidor’s expertise at chess earned him the moniker ‘le subtil’, and dexterity, ingenuity and imagination are certainly all evident in the composer’s resourceful shaping of the numerous ensembles and dramatic use of harmony. The quintet was particularly zesty as the young couple presented a united force in the face of their hysterical landlady’s outburst; here, as throughout, Jeremy Gray’s direction was adroit, inventive but never fussy.

When André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741-1813) appeared in Paris in 1767 he presented Philidor with a rival. (Apparently, Philidor took refuge in chess, playing blindfolded and taken on several opponents simultaneously.)

The personnel of Grétry’s L’amant jaloux (The Jealous Lover) are a familiar bunch, straight out of commedia dell’arte: an aging father, his eligible daughter, her guileful maid and two penniless suitors. The fast-paced and delightfully inconsequential plot embraces all the rudiments of commedia — mistaken identities, nocturnal hide-and-seek, with a mandolin serenade thrown in for good measure.

Don Lopez, a rich merchant of Cadiz, does not want his widowed daughter Léonore to re-marry, but she has other plans, being enamoured of the madly jealous Don Alonze. Alonze’s sister and Léonore’s friend, Isabelle, is being pursued by her tutor who wants to marry her. Florival drives away the tutor and Isabelle takes refuge with Léonore, whereupon Alonze mistakes her for a secret lover of Léonore Meanwhile Florival has fallen in love with the mysterious stranger he has rescued and arrives at the house; informed by the housekeeper that it is owned by Léonore, he assumes the latter must be the object of his affection and serenades her. He is overheard by Alonze who, in a furious rage, confronts Florival in the garden at night. Fortunately, they realise they are not rivals before they do each other any damage. A conveniently arriving inheritance allows Alonze to marry Léonore and, fulfilling the requirements the comic genre, Florival also marries Isabelle.

The soprano parts are technically demanding but all three singers coped admirably with the challenges. As Isabelle, Grimson’s coloratura was accurate and her intonation secure, while Máire Flavin was excellent as the feisty maid, Jacinthe. Tenor Oliver Mercer performed Florival’s serenade delicately and touchingly, and Oliver Dunn was strong and confident as Don Lopez. The translation by Gray and French is typically pithy, but at times some of the cast seemed not entirely comfortable in the spoken passages.

Seated behind the performers, the musicians of CHROMA performed with grace and lightness, conductor Andrew Griffiths thoughtfully highlighting the musical details in a manner which complemented the character and form of the vocal lines. Griffiths clearly appreciates the composers’ melodic inventiveness and the overall musico-dramatic structure of these works. The orchestral tone was pleasing, the intonation excellent, and the ensemble between band and singers consistent and secure.

Seeking out rarities and novelties has been a favourite, and greatly rewarding, Bampton pursuit since the company’s creation nearly twenty years ago. And, although dramatically rather slight, these two seldom performed French opéras-comiques of the eighteenth-century provided much melodious charm and humorous drollery, proving once again that Bampton Classical Opera can be relied upon to entertain with style and accomplishment: a company truly serious about comedy.

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Claire Seymour

 

…impressed…
The Spectator, 4 October 2012

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…impressed…

The Spectator, 4 October 2012

I’m not a great fan of precursors, or what Tovey called, in a once-famous expression, Interesting Historical Figures. Bampton Opera, however, is, and I went to its production of short operas by two IHFs at St John’s Smith Square with an open mind. The first work, by Philidor, didn’t do much for me, but the second, by Grétry, is charming and at about 80 minutes doesn’t outstay its welcome. Philidor’s Blaise the Cobbler is a predictable and laborious comedy about a couple who can’t pay the rent, and manage to lock the importunate landlord in a large cupboard. It mainly consists of short arias, written in a lingua franca style of the late 1750s, and gave its singers a chance to warm up for their larger roles in Grétry’s The Jealous Lover. The same sets were used for both pieces, and, as I’ve said, some of the same singers, young professionals of whom the most notable is Robert Anthony Gardiner, a tenor who acts as well as he sings; and Martene Grimson, a highly experienced artist with an appealing soubrettish voice. St John’s is ideal for listeners to broadcast concerts, which alas it is rarely used for any longer; but if you’re there voices tend to acquire a halo, which makes spoken dialogue hard to follow. Grétry’s pleasant idiom and ready melodic charm (Beecham adored him) are employed in this opera to dramatise a story that is startlingly like The Marriage of Figaro in respect of a surprise in who comes out of the closet, in the literal sense, and even in the pert music which accompanies that. Grétry’s strength seems to be in ensembles, the more the merrier, and I was impressed enough by this performance to want to investigate him further.

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Michael Tanner

 

a perennial credit to Bampton’s casting
The Oxford Times, July 2012

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a perennial credit to Bampton’s casting

The Oxford Times, July 2012

Two evenings of perfect weather were Bampton Classical Opera’s reward for 20 years’ work unearthing 18th-century musical jewels (of various caratage), as summer finally arrived last weekend and the loyal audience was transported back to days of chirruping swifts accompanying the opera as the sun set on the golden church spire — one of the loveliest settings I know. This little company, which puts on a couple of shows in the idyllic Deanery garden in West Oxfordshire each summer, now also makes regular appearances at the Buxton Festival, the country’s most likeable and quirky summer opera jamboree.

And it explores a surprisingly neglected backwater: the question of what happened between Handel and Mozart — a great leap in sensibility and practice in a very short time — certainly rewards investigation. And having thoroughly excavated the Italian (and Spanish, and Portuguese) end of the market, Bampton has now turned its attention to the French.

The double bill of two short works by Philidor and Grétry were a glimpse into what kept ancien régime aristos entertained before they lost their heads. The two little anecdotes both involved that old standby of hiding in wardrobes and were both rather slender (one relying entirely on a misunderstanding of someone’s name), but there was lots to enjoy. The Philidor (Blaise le savetier, 1759) has a sweet rustic bounce and fresh momentum, with French curlicues decorating an Italian musical model, and was performed with wit and spirit by Martene Grimson and Robert Anthony Gardiner: both pieces rely on extended dialogue, not always opera singers’ strong suit, but carried off here with real actorly panache and charm. Grétry — who re-invented opéra comique in the way Gluck did tragedy — was more ambitious in L’amant jaloux (1778), loading on the local Spanish colour with a lovely oboe-and-pizzicato tune in the overture which reappears as a mandolin serenade at the crucial moment. Ensembles and arias ranging from jaunty to sentimental, livened up with cute wind-instrument twiddles, and finally, with a lovers’ duet, made you realise why setting words to music can go far beyond dialogue — the only way that opera can justify itself. Máire Flavin performed the regulation lippy maid with feisty charm; Aoife O’Sullivan, Oliver Mercer and Oliver Dunn joined Grimson and Gardiner to make up the lively ensemble.
As ever, this was a cast of young singers at the forefront of their generation, a perennial credit to Bampton’s casting; Andrew Griffiths kept the thing moving — and band and singers together in what is not the easiest layout — and Jeremy Gray delivered a trademark staging of pleasantly zany silliness and inspiration.

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Robert Thicknesse

 

What the audience said

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What the audience said

My party adored your production and could find no fault at all with it. We thought the standard of the singers was wonderfully high; their acting ability was splendid; the sets were amusing and successful; the acoustic was astonishingly good; the orchestra was excellent; the front of house staff were all friendly and helpful.

What a delightful atmosphere you do create in Bampton. we were thrilled that the performance was held outside, having resigned ourselves to the idea that it might not be.

We went to the pre performance talk, which was fascinating. I find it a pure delight to be exposed to operas which do not make it to the general repertoire. I also think it is lovely that the ticket prices make opera like this affordable to almost anyone.

I was so grateful for the effort and imagination and immense time devoted to the opera by yourselves and by your singers. You make a difference in the world by offering what you do.

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crisp and lively... lovely ensemble singing...
Bachtrack, September 2012

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crisp and lively... lovely ensemble singing...

Bachtrack, September 2012

Bampton Classical Opera is a company dedicated to performing rarely-performed 18th-century operas, and every summer they stage a new production with a cast of young and upcoming singers at their base in Bampton in Oxfordshire. This year’s production was a double-bill of French opéras comiques by Philidor and Grétry, which they brought to London’s St John’s Smith Square last week. The conductor (Andrew Griffiths) and the cast were unchanged from the summer production but in London, the orchestral part was played by Chroma.

François-André Danican Philidor (1726-95) and André Erneste Modeste Grétry (1741-1813) were both popular French opera composers in the mid-18th century, although stylistically their music is quite different. In this production, what links the two operas Blaise le savetier (Philidor, 1759) and L’amant jaloux (Grétry, 1778) is more the plot – and especially the “wardrobe”, which plays a crucial role in both works. In both operas, the characters hide in the wardrobe to escape from jealous men, which will sound very familiar to anyone who knows Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. In fact, such scenes were commonplace in 18th-century comic operas. In particular, watching Grétry’s L’amant jaloux, I was surprised how many similarities there were with Mozart’s Figaro in terms of plot and operatic form, and it made me realise that Figaro didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere but was founded on a tradition of comic operas which Mozart experienced in Paris – although admittedly Mozart elevated it to a higher level of musical imagination.

On this occasion, both operas were performed in English, which was helpful, as they had a fair amount of spoken dialogue. The Philidor was in period costume, whereas the Grétry work, set in Cádiz, was updated to a modern setting. The staging, a fairly basic affair with a big antique wardrobe placed in the centre of the stage, served both operas with a few ornamental changes. As the orchestra was placed behind the stage, it must have been quite tricky for conductor Andrew Griffiths to keep the singers and orchestra together, but the playing was crisp and lively and there were some lovely wind solos.

Musically, Grétry’s L’amant jaloux (“The Jealous Lover”) was more substantial and had a couple of catchy and charming arias. The plot revolves around a young widow, Léonore (Aiofe O’Sullivan), who is in love with Don Alonze (Robert Anthony Gardiner) but her father (Oliver Dunn) won’t allow her to remarry for financial reasons. Matters are further complicated by Don Alonze’s uncontrolled jealousy, as well as the sub-plot involving a second pair of lovers, Don Alonze’s sister Isabelle (Martene Grimson) and a French officer Florival (Oliver Mercer). Soprano Aiofe O’Sullivan sung the role of Léonore with a clear voice and good technical control especially in her coloratura aria, and also the tenor Oliver Dunn impressed with his beautiful account of Florival’s serenade (which is accompanied by mandolin, as in Don Giovanni). Máire Flavin excelled both vocally and dramatically as the quick-witted maid Jacinte (a role that reminds one of Despina in Così fan tutte), and as Léonore’s father, the baritone Oliver Dunn sung authoritatively although he seemed a more benign father than the story suggested. There was also some lovely ensemble singing, especially in the final garden scene, again anticipating a similar scene in the final act of Mozart’s Figaro.

Philidor’s Blaise le savetier (“Blaise the Cobbler”), performed in the first half of the evening, was altogether a simpler affair. More of a slapstick comedy than an operatic plot, a poor cobbler Blaise and his wife Blaisine, who are behind with their rent, think up a clever plot to outwit their landlord Mr. Pinch and his wife. Both in terms of the story and musical style, it was clear that this opera was composed for the general public rather than royalty or aristocrats. The aria settings are relatively simple, but Philidor’s strengths lay in the ensemble writing and especially Blaise’s duets with both Mr. Pinch and Mrs. Pinch were highly entertaining. Robert Anthony Gardiner and Martene Grimson sung and played the lively young couple with wit, and Oliver Mercer and Aiofe O’Sullivan played the buffo roles of the landlord couple with great comic timing. On its own, I felt that this Philidor opera was musically slight, but combined with the more sophisticated Grétry work, it made for a pleasant evening and gave us an entertaining insight into the forgotten genre of French opéra comique.

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Nahoko Gotoh

 

Programme notes

Dancing in Cadiz
David Charlton

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Dancing in Cadiz

André Grétry’s anniversary falls next year: when he died in 1813, Carl Maria von Weber (for example) was nearly twenty-seven and had already written Abu Hassan. Grétry had outlived the allotted Biblical span: born in 1741 he began life halfway, so to speak, between Haydn (b 1732) and Mozart (b 1756). His musical style, however, moved with the times. Although he never forgot the youthful impact of seeing excellent travelling players give opere buffe and intermezzi by Pergolesi and others, he later responded to the work of Gluck, of Haydn, of Cherubini.

Grétry made his home in Paris, the musical crossroads of Europe, and remained a self-employed, audience-dependent composer. As a non-performing professional, he seems more like an Italian musician than those French composers who were salaried and pensioned by the royal court. Although he was paid a retainer by the Paris Opéra, Grétry was not French: he was Liégeois.

If a born opera composer, Grétry’s literary taste was so developed that he finally became a writer more than a public musician. His three volumes of memoirs are among the first ever written by a composer, and they owe more than a little to the lifelong influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (whose Hermitage home Grétry bought in 1798). The canon continued with De la vérité (three volumes) and the even longer Réflexions d’un solitaire, first published in 1919–22, where the range of observations, philosphical excursions and memories sometimes left the world of music far behind. Grétry’s language will not be too easy to capture when – one day – a translator decides to give us what we surely deserve: for no English version of Grétry’s books has ever been issued. He writes with something of Rousseau’s resonant simplicity, plus a kind of moral sensibility that never becomes merely sententious.

Such was Grétry’s standing during his lifetime that his Mémoires were published by order of the government in 1797: indeed his operas had already achieved classical status. Having entered and transformed the young genre of opéra-comique, his output, by and large, stayed in the repertory; a dip during the Revolution was followed by a renaissance during Napoleon’s time. In the Romantic period these vintage scores sometimes became iconic for another generation also: we find Berlioz writing articles publicly challenging the director of the Opéra-Comique to revive the old master’s Richard Cœur-de-lion. And, some four years later, the Opéra-Comique obliged. Berlioz, the master of Romantic orchestration, argued that Grétry’s best work deserved to be authentically preserved: he was not in support of the way that Richard was re-orchestrated for a new age.

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We might say that Grétry was the perfect composer to ‘re-brand’ French music after the Baroque: as the Bohemian-born Gluck gave France’s lyric tragedy its renaissance, so the Liège-born Grétry gave her comedy an incomparable record of export figures; for the spread of opéra-comique was world-wide. His operas went to Moscow, Stockholm, New Orleans, even parts of Italy. Richard Cœur-de-lion and Zémire et Azor were the only French operas of their time that London audiences could appreciate in their original form, without substitution arias.

But in opéra-comique one is talking of only half the ledger when one talks of the composer. Given that the linking scenes are always in spoken dialogue (thus readily susceptible of translation into Swedish or Russian) the dramatic quality of this special genre owed its near-universal success to the genius of a string of writers. Favart was the poetic veteran; Sedaine was the protean master-mind; Marmontel was the probing critic of bourgeois morality; Anseaume the upholder of farce and humour. Even Voltaire wrote an opéra-comique text for Grétry, after the young composer had visited the philosopher in Geneva on his way back from Rome. (Grétry spent six years in Rome completing his musical training – not yet winning a French Prix de Rome but rather a bursary from the Liège endowment of Lambert Darchis.) The conversion of Voltaire, above all, demonstrates for us the way opéra-comique could inspire a public avid for new ideas in music-theatre. On the one hand its music offered the pleasures of galant melody alongside the power of sonata-form structures. On the other, its spoken dialogue was able to convey an enhanced speed or complexity of dramatic development and, especially perhaps, a directness of ironic attack which in recitative would seem mitigated.

This was a great age of prose fiction, whether novels or short stories: a two-way traffic existed in France whereby story-writers might have half an eye on the theatre. Stage dialogue could quote from other written sources. Certain opéras-comiques were even dramatised from published reports of supposedly real-life events – they were as fashionable as film is now.

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These facts perhaps make the English origins of L’amant jaloux less surprising: after all, anglomanie was a recognised condition in the 1770s. The text of this, Grétry’s twenty-third stage work, was not by any writer so far mentioned but by the English – possibly Irish – writer Thomas Hale, or Hall, or Hele, known as d’Hèle. Opéra-comique liberated his genius, and he gave opéra-comique three of its enduring titles, all with Grétry’s music. Le Jugement de Midas was based on the celebrated burletta Midas (Dublin, 1762; London, 1764); L’amant jaloux was based on The Wonder: a Woman keeps a secret (1714) by Susanna Centlivre (one of the best-loved London plays of the century); and Les Evénements imprévus used an Italian source.

In effect, Grétry created d’Hèle, who had not been a dramatist, an actor or writer when he came to Grétry’s attention. Born reportedly in Gloucestershire, d’Hèle had served with the army in the Americas and gone from Jamaica to Switzerland, thence to Italy. His chaotic life-style and hopeless amours could not disguise what Baron Grimm described as ‘his tone, his bearing, [which] revealed the well-born man. He was without haughtiness, without affectation, and the way he avoided speaking of himself seemed also to indicate discretion towards others.’ His fortune, if he ever possessed one, had long gone. He died, not yet forty years old, at the end of 1780. Grétry writes twice about him, expanding the Mémoires by a chapter in Réflexions:

D’Hèle was caustic and satirical in male company; each comment delivered a punch-line. Women made him prefer France to England. […] Having money to have women; having a [stage] success in order to have both […]: such was this unique person who had long studied the human race and no longer believed in anything except the inescapable egoism of anyone who chooses action. […] He measured five foot two or three inches; thin, blond, blue-eyed. Did he perish because Argentine [his mistress] went away? Would he have died had she stayed? No-one knows.

D’Hèle took tobacco relentlessly; he almost always held a plug of it. He inhaled as he turned his head away, whenever the blabberers annoyed him. It was his way of saying, ‘Oh! What an idiot!’

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D’Hèle’s dialogue in L’amant jaloux (1778) contains all this intelligence and ironic humour, which is so often complemented in the score. National stereotypes are also in full evidence. Three years earlier Beaumarchais had given the world Le Barbier de Séville, with Rosina shut away by the libidinous Bartolo. Grétry shows us Cadiz, with both Léonore and her friend Isabelle being forced to avoid the coercions of male family-members devoted principally to money, or else to honour. Indeed when Beaumarchais wrote Le Mariage de Figaro (1783) he paid homage to d’Hèle’s libretto when Almaviva humiliates Rosina by having her closet forced open, only to reveal Suzanna instead of Cherubino. The parallel scene in Finale I of L’amant jaloux goes back to the London stage, in fact. Isabelle (veiled) emerges from her friend’s closet, instead of the expected male lover. For good measure, we have a prequel of Mozart too: the emergence is covered by Grétry’s inspired employment of an insolent triple-time music, whose slowed-up strumming figure, played by pizzicato strings, is Spanish to the core (whether a bolero or flamenco).

Dance-rhythm backs up Lopez’s ‘Le mariage est une envie’ in Act II; in his Mémoires chapterabout L’amant jaloux Grétry points to the old ‘Folia’ sequence, Les Folies d’Espagne, which he made into its actual basis. And more obvious local colour enters with the offstage mandolins in Finale II, helping to accompany the serenade which the hopeful Frenchman, Florival, is singing outside the window of Lopez’s house.

For Grétry, nothing was more natural than to include irony and local colour inside the music. He actually uses the word ‘tint’ in recalling how the Spanish setting and characters of his opera inspired ‘a coloration of romance inspired by the customs, nocturnal amours and novels of that nation’. In both the opera and its overture, the key moment comes when irony and local colour become one: Florival’s serenade.

Not for nothing did Grétry’s Italian teacher call him ‘a true donkey in music’: he always made the received forms of opera into something personal. So, in Finale II, the ‘diegetic’, real-time performance of Florival’s serenade is made to collide violently with the well-made, Italianate love-music for Léonore and the ever-jealous Don Alonze. How daring, how calculating of Grétry to give us a forewarning of this excellent moment in his overture, using an oboe solo to transport us to Cadiz, and pizzicato strings to evoke the lover’s mandoline; and then write tremolando shudderings which tell us (wordlessly) that jealousy must be defeated before victory can be declared.

David Charlton

David Charlton is author of Grétry and the Growth of Opéra-Comique (Cambridge University Press).

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Production Photos