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Standout Track: No. 20, “Je Vais Revoir Ma Chère Métairie.” Like other 18th-century comic operas, François-André Danican Philidor’s Sancho Pança closes with a catchy vaudeville number based on a popular tune of the day. Soloists step out of character and directly address the audience one by one, cycling through a chorus-verse sequence that sums up the moral of the story: Don’t be a poser.
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Musical Motivation: This is one of the first recordings of Philidor, a French composer who largely shaped the style ofopéras comiques, but is perhaps better known as a chess grand master (“Pawns are the soul of chess” is one of his famous aphorisms). Comic operas offered up laughs by skewering longstanding clichés of the genre that no longer connected with audiences. Hence the political satire of Sancho Pança, which replaces the ancient kings of earlier operas with the doughy sidekick from Don Quixote—turned incompetent governor of the fictional island of Barataria.
French Diss: D.C.’s Opera Lafayette has been doing this stuff for years, resurrecting obscure, mostly French, operas with a meticulous ear for period detail. Ryan Brown, the ensemble’s conductor and artistic director, says he was drawn to the era’s music for its lightness and clarity. “There’s a big gap in our understanding of 18th-century music. Everyone knows Mozart was great, but he died standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Opera Lafayette performs April 14 and 15 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.