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24.1.12

Reviving Monsigny

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P.-A. Monsigny, Le Déserteur, Opera Lafayette, R. Brown
(Naxos, 2010)
Charles T. Downey, Monsigny’s “Le Roi” receives admirable revival from Opera Lafayette (The Classical Review, January 24)
Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (1729-1817) was a primary force in creating the genre of the opéra comique, in partnership with librettist Michel-Jean Sedaine. Monsigny did this in spite of deficits in his musical education and compositional technique. Critics of the 18th century often found his harmonic and contrapuntal skills wanting while generally admiring the freshness of his melodic imagination. After enjoying world-wide success, including export to the newly constructed stages of the New World, Monsigny’s operas were eclipsed by works in other styles and almost completely forgotten.

Almost, were it not (in part) for the work of Opera Lafayette, the historically informed performance ensemble based in Washington, D.C. The group revived Monsigny’s Le Déserteur in 2009, with a recording of the work joining the live series released by Opera Lafayette on the Naxos label. Director Ryan Brown has now turned to another of this neglected composer’s most successful works, Le Roi et le Fermier, heard Sunday night in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
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