Why do some fine works of music get relegated to the shelf? And what kind of work does it take to dust them off and return to them to the affection of the public?
This blog will trace the efforts of Opera Lafayette, a Washington, DC-based company, to revive Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny’s 1762 opera, Le Roi et le fermier, from preparing the score, to rehearsals and performances in the United States and France. Mastering obscure works of French opera is “work as usual” for Opera Lafayette. But this time there’s a difference: After performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington and the Rose Theater in New York, the ensemble has been invited to present the work in the 1770 Royal Opera Theater in the Chateau de Versailles, where we will use original 18th century sets used for this very opera.
I invite you to join us, from our first glimpse of a new score to our arrival at the chateau, where musicians who have long played the music of Versailles will walk through the iron and gilded gates, into the gardens and hallways of the palace, and face the challenge of giving a performance worthy of arguably the most beautiful opera house in all of Europe. It is a dream; it is a challenge. We had better measure up!
I am Andrew Appel, the harpsichordist for Opera Lafayette, and I will report on our work through my eyes and those of our conductor, violinist, cellist, oboist, flautist and singer colleagues. I hope to give you a sense of our progress, frustration, inspiration, satisfaction, our groans and giggles, as we learn, polish and perform the score, moving from concert hall to recording studio and finally to the Royal Opera House.
Using illustrations and images of palace and music, I also want to paint a picture of the world around Le Roi et le fermier, the music and how it defines its pre-revolutionary volatile and transitional time, the opera house itself (an architectural masterpiece of transitional style) and the context of this once celebrated opera whose music hovers between the old regime of Rameau and the bustling new social and musical order of Berlioz.