L’amante anonyme

Voicebox: Opera in Concert’s most recent production is Joseph Bologne, Chévalier de St, Georges’ 1780 opéra comique, L’amant anonyme.  It was given in OiC’s usual style; i.e concert dress but some blocking, a few props and no music stands.  The dialogue was given in English with the musical numbers in French with surtitles.  Accompaniment was a 10 piece chamber reduction of the original score by Stephen Hargreaves.  David Fallis conducted.


It’s a fairly light plot with some similarities to Persuasion in that two people go on unhappily for years because propriety does not permit them to express their mutual attraction.  In L’amant anonyme Valcour, a French gentleman, is enamoured of an aristocratic widow, Léontine, who, following the ending of an unhappy marriage by her husband’s death, has vowed not to get involved again.  For four years Valcour has been sending her presents anonymously and she is much attracted to the mysterious stranger while maintaining a close friendship with Valcour.

Eventually Valcour decides to bring matters to a head.  He, in his anonymous persona, makes possible the wedding of two of Léontine’s dependents Colin and Jeannette and uses the occasion to force Léontine to show a sign of affection for her anonymous admirer or see him go into exile.  After a fair bit of faffing about involving the go-betweens Opémon and Dorothée, Valcour declares himself to be the anonymous lover and a double wedding ensues.  All of this gives plenty of opportunity for love lorn arias and ensembles of double meanings and confusion which gives the composer lots to work with.

He works with it very well.  The music is clearly of its period but it’s well crafted and St. Georges is no mean tune smith.  There’s lots of melodic invention and well constructed ensembles.  There’s also a fair amount of dance music, as one might expect,  The singing and acting are really rather good.  The dancing isn’t the strong point!  Holly Chaplin is particularly impressive as Léontine and manages a nice mix of power and agility especially in her big aria in the second half.  Her Valcourt, Alexander Cappellazzo, is also rather good.  He has a solid, stylish tenor.  Dion Mazerolle sings as well as I have ever seen him.  He’s vocally excellent and his arch acting as the “fixer” Opémon is very funny.  The young lovers Colin and Jeannette are sung nicely by Joshua Clemenger and, new to me, Ruth Acheampong.  She has a very pleasing light, bright soprano and some considerable stage presence.  Mairi Demings rounds things out effectively as Opémon’s female oppo Dorothée.  The chorus is in good form and the chamber reduction works well in the small theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre.

All in all it’s very satisfying and another example of what Bill Silva-Marin and OiC do well; resurrecting forgotten or rarely performed works and making a lot out of them with limited resources.

In that vein, they have also announced their 2023/24 line up.  It’s three lesser known Verdi operas; Un giorno di regno on November 5th 2023, Ernani on February 25th 2024 and La bataglia de Legnano on April 7th 2024.


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