Sunday, 16 September 2012

Gretry and Philidor - Bampton comes to London

Bampton Classical Opera pitch up in London on Tuesday 18 September at St Johns Smith Square. Their double bill of Philidor's Blaise le savetier and Gretry's L'amant jaloux debuted in July at the Deanery Garden in July, their 20th anniversary season at Bampton. Popular in the 18th century, the music of Philidor and Gretry has not yet made a real come back though Sir Thomas Beecham was a devotee. So a chance to appreciate them on stage.


Andre Gretry (1741 - 1813) came from a poor family and developed a desire to complete his studies after hearing performances by an Italian opera company, performing Galuppi and Pergolesi. Gretry studied in Rome for five years from 1759 to 1764. He was also influenced by the operas comique of Monsigny, and legend has it that these led Grety to devote himself to opera comique. He wrote around 50 operas, his best known being Zemire et Amor (1771) and Richard Coeur de Lyon (1784). Remarkably, his success continued throughout the revolution with his final opera being premiered at the Paris Opera in 1803. He was one of a group of composers who took the revolutionary spirit into the opera house and created operas which pre-figure the more well known romantic operas. Gretry himself wrote Guillaume Tell (1789) which, according to Winton Dean, anticipates later developments. Anyone interested in the period is recommended to read Winton Dean's Opera under the Revolution republished in Essays on Opera (OUP).

You can hear Sir Thomas Beecham conducting music from Zemire et Amore on Youtube.

Francois-Andre Danican Philidor (1726 - 1795) was not only a composer but a chess player, he was regarded as the best chess player of his age. He came from a musical family, with his grandfather, great-uncle, father and elder brother all being musicians. The family name was originally D'Anican and reputed to be Scottish (Duncan). As a child he was in the royal choir under Louis XV. He lived in Paris from 1740 as a performer, teacher and copyist, but spent 9 years in London where he knew Dr Johnson and Burney. Though some found his music too Italianate, he had great success with his 20 operas comiques and two tragedies lyriques. His best known works were Le Sorcier (1764), Tom Jones, after Fielding, (1765), and Ernelinde (1767).

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