CD Spotlight: L'Amant Anonyme by Joseph Bologne
It is the stuff of adventure stories: the son of a slave is brought to France, educated in the aristocratic circles of Paris, rising to fame in Marie Antoinette’s court as a virtuoso composer, violinist, conductor, and swordsman. But this is no fiction, it is the story of Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, who was one of the 18th century’s most extraordinary musical figures. Sadly, the years after his death have been unkind, and details of his life have been lost, along with many of his compositions. Even the spelling of his last name varies from source to source. It is known that Bologne wrote six operas. Only his most successful, L’Amant Anonyme (The Anonymous Lover) survives to this day.
Happily, Haymarket Opera, a Chicago opera company that specializes in historically informed performances played on 18th-century instruments, mounted a production of the opera. Happier still, Cedille Records was there to capture it on tape and has just released a three CD set of the opera. The brilliant cast features soprano Nicole Cabell, Assistant Professor of Voice at the Eastman School of Music, in the lead role of Léontine. Haymarket Opera founder and artistic director Craig Trompeter leads the performance, conducting a 19-piece orchestra.
The opera is presented on three CDs: the first two CDs are L’Amant Anonyme complete, with all the French dialogue. If you just want to hear the highlights, you can listen to CD 3, which has the 21 musical numbers. The booklet provides historical context and insight into Bologne’s life and the opera, as well as the libretto in French and English. The whole package of words and music is a wonderful documentation of Joseph Bologne’s life and a wonderful gift to us.
Note: the movie Chevalier is being released on April 21, and will be running at the Little Theatre. There will be a Classical 91.5 Presents/Black Cinema Series/Our Voices Project screening and discussion on Wednesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and information at thelittle.org.