Monday 28 January 2013

Felicien David's Lallah Roukh receives modern revival

Emma Calve as Lallah Roukh in 1885
Felicien David (1810 - 1876) is a French composer whose name has almost disappeared from contemporary view. But his symphonic ode Le Desert was hailed as a masterpiece by Berlioz after its premiere in 1844 and the work would have great influence on Bizet. (you can hear the piece on YouTube). David also wrote operas, and in 1862 his opera Lallah Roukh was premiered at the Opera Comique with a libretto based on Thomas Moore's  1817 oriental romance dealing with the tale of the daughter of the Mughal Emperor. Between 1862 and 1898 the opera received 376 performances at the Opera Comique, during the same period the work was performed at a significant number of other opera houses. But then it entirely dropped from view, its orientalism woefully out of fashion.

The title role was created by the soprano Marie Cico, who had sung in a number of Offenbach premieres (Orfee 1858, Genevieve de Brabant 1859 and Daphnis & Chloe 1860). After her debut at the Opera Comique in 1861 she performed in a number of works by Offenbach and others, and was Suzanne in the Opera Comique's premiere of The Marriage of Figaro in 1872. Offenbach apart, most of Cico's repertoire has now fallen by the wayside, including Lallah Roukh.

In 2008, substantial extracts of the piece were performed by the American period instrument group Opera Lafayette, and now the group under their conductor Ryan Brown, is giving the modern premiere of the piece. They performed the work on Saturday 26 January at the Kennedy Center in Washington and will be performing it again at the Lincoln Centre on 31 January 2013 (though this seems to be sold out). Further information from the Opera Lafayette website.

 There is no complete recording, but thankfully the group are going into the studio with it as well.

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