CD REVIEW – “Sancho Pança”, Opera Lafayette, ★★★

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Sancho Pança dans son isle, new on the Naxos label, is a fine offering by Opera Lafayette, Ryan Brown conducting. The vocal ensemble – most taking on multiple roles – enjoys the advantage of having performed the work the previous year. The characters are well defined and Brown’s sense of comedy is faithful to the opera’s rank and style – “an opéra bouffon in one act”. With this recording, Composer François-André Danican Philidor may have never had it so good. But back in 1762, when the opera first appeared, box office receipts weren’t a big deal to the composer who was a bigger winner in the biggest Master-type chess tournaments around. Sometimes wearing a blindfold. By contrast, Sancho Pança is a light-hearted romp for the composer-side of Philidor – a day trip into musical comedy. Opera Lafayette provides a fine cast for this mid-18th Century take on an odd chapter from Cervantes’ Don Quichotte. Recommended for die-hard collectors.

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RYAN BROWN. Photo, Opera Lafayette
KARIM SULAYMAN and ELIZABETH CALLEO. Photo, Louis Forget

THE ENSEMBLE:
Darren Perry, Baritone – Sancho Pança
Elizabeth Calleo, Soprano – Thérèse (his wife) / Une Gouvernante
Karim Sulayman, Tenor – Lope Tocho / Le Fermier / Un Barbier
Meghan McCall, Soprano – Juliette / La Bergère / Une Paysanne
Tony Boutté, Tenor – Le Docteur / Don Crispinos / Le Tailleur
Eric Christopher Black, Baritone – Torillos / Le Procureur
Andrew Sauvageau, Baritone – Un Paysan

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SANCHO PANÇA

Ryan Brown is the founder, conductor, and artistic director of Opera Lafayette. Through his work with Opera Lafayette, Mr. Brown has become a leading figure in the revival of 18th-century opera. His vivid explorations of the French repertoire in particular have earned him an international reputation, receiving the highest praise from critics in the United States and abroad. These performances have highlighted the various traditions of the tragédie lyrique, the opéra-ballet, the opéra-comique, the pastorale, and the dramma-giocoso genres. Mr. Brown’s discography for Naxos includes masterpieces by well-known 18th-century composers as well as discoveries of their contemporaries (Gluck’s Orphée et Euridice and Sacchini’s Œdipe à Colone, Rameau Operatic Arias, and Rebel and Francœur’s Zélindor, roi des Sylphes), works which exemplify traditions in the 17th century (Lully’s Armide), and those which point the way toward the music of the 19th century (Monsigny’s Le Déserteur). Mr. Brown was raised in a musical family in California, and performed extensively as a violinist and chamber musician in New York and on tour before turning his attentions to conducting. In 2012 he will make his debut with the Seattle Symphony and will take Opera Lafayette to the Opéra Royal in Versailles.

OPERA LAFAYETTE is an American period-instrument ensemble that specializes in the French repertoire, rediscovers masterpieces, and creates a recorded legacy of its work. Founded in 1995 in Washington, DC, by Conductor and Artistic Director Ryan Brown, Opera Lafayette has earned critical acclaim and a loyal following for its performances and recordings with international singers renowned for their interpretations of baroque and classical operas. Opera Lafayette’s season includes performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and at the Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. In addition to Sancho Pança, the company’s discography on the Naxos label has expanded to six releases including Gluck’s Orphée et Euridice (2005), Sacchini’s Œdipe à Colone (2006), Rameau Operatic Arias (2007), Lully’s Armide (2008), Rebel and Francœur’s Zélindor, roi des Sylphes (2009), Monsigny’s Le Déserteur (2010). Grétry’s Le Magnifique will follow in 2012.

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