Edouard Lalo and Arthur Coquard: La Jacquerie
Véronique Gens (Blanche de Sainte-Croix), Nora Gubisch (Jeanne), Charles Castronovo (Robert), Boris Pinkhasovich (Guillaume), Jean Sébastien Bou (Le Comte de Sainte-Croix), Patrick Bolleire (Le Sénéchal), Enguerrand de Hys (Le Baron de Savigny), Choir and Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France, Michel Tranchant (Chorus Master), Patrick Davin (Conductor)
Live recording: Opéra Berlioz-Le Corum de Montpellier (July 24, 2015) – 113’03
2 CDs Ediciones Singulares # ES1023 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Book in French and English
Though better known for his orchestral and chamber music, Edouard Lalo achieved similar success in the field of opera though the output was slight. The Lille native’s best known work, Le Roi d’Ys (1888), logically overshadows his subsequent work, La Jacquerie, with justifiable cause: Lalo died after only composing the first act. The incomplete œuvre was later completed by Arthur Coquard.
Resistance to tyranny was a cause Lalo picked up in his first opera, Fiesque, based on the Schiller literary work Fiesco. This idea of subjugation would wind its way into Lalo’s third opera, La Jacquerie with a storyline loosely surrounding the 1358 peasant rebellion during the Hundred Years’ War in Northern France. Édouard Blau’s libretto (much to the consternation of Lalo) injected a love dimension into the musical equation which greatly hampered Lalo’s inspiration of dispensing a weighty drama. Mixed objectives unsettled the original team and, ultimately, the writing would be finished by Simone Arnaud, one of Coquard’s close allies.
Again, Palazzetto Bru Zane’s filtering finds a stellar cast of singers to fill the shoes of Lalo’s characters. Since the opera has never been previously recorded, Véronique Gens discusses the first-ever exploration into Lalo’s music which challenges singers with degreed theatrical persuasion and appropriate nuances françaises. Gens speaks of her character’s demands in singing of unusually high notes combined with elongated lyrical lines: her efforts are exceedingly palatable and convincing. Her Blanche “soliloquy” holds us in the moment aided by Lalo’s testy discussions.
Like Le Roi d’Ys, La Jacquerie is fundamentally through-composed, hard to define style-wise despite moments of reflection from other well-known composers. Certainly there are stints glancing toward Wagner, Richard Strauss, even von Weber, and to a lesser extent, Massenet’s Werther.
Lalo’s music opens with sobriety, a solo oboe: we know we’re in for a somber journey. Patrick Davin’s magnificent direction of the Radio France Choir injects unhappiness, and he noxiously spurs mounting uneasiness within Michel Tranchant’s vocal corps. Guillaume (Boris Pinkhasovich) wastes no time contributing with his own growing resentment towards the ruling class. Ahead of the woodcutter’s anger Patrick Bolleire has already begun his job by chiseling away at the villeins with authoritative direction as the Sénéchal: it convincingly builds tension amongst the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’
After the striking recording of Thérèse, Nora Gubisch and Charles Castronovo return in the mother/son pairing as Jeanne and Robert. Early on in Act I we sympathize with Gubisch’s widow through her soulfully mezzo-soprano voice. The return of Castronovo from Paris only heightens the drama, finely expressed in his brilliant tenor fortitude.
M. Castronovo goes on within Act IV as he sings a buttery, compelling argument to Blanche de Sainte-Croix. It hints at minute reflections of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. The tension mounts. The discourse between Guillaume, Robert and Blanche begins to tragically unfold and the closing reflections by Véronique Gens reveal an empathetic respite. This is truly a momentous apex within La Jacquerie.
The opera’s finale ushers in heavy renditions of Straussian delight and grand extravagance with quixotic twists and turns: Coquard cleverly injects elements of dissention that adds spark to the ultimate conflagration.
Palazzetto Bru Zane’s capture of La Jacquerie is a moving tribute to Edouard Lalo and Arthur Coquard. Finely executed and finely displayed.
Palazzetto Bru Zane Website