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Search and Rescue Effort Continues in ABQ

Museum of Art & History Amphitheater
09/09/2022 -  & September 10, 11, 2022
Louise Bertin: Le Loup-garou
Michael Rodriguez (Comte Albéric), Miguel Pedroza (Raimbaud), Thomas Drew (Bertrand), Yejin Lee (Alice), Mélanie Ashkar (Catherine)
Opera Southwest Chorus, Aaron Howe (Chorus Master), Opera Southwest Orchestra, Anthony Barrese (Conductor)
Elizabeth Margolius (Direction), Alyssa Salazar (Costumes), Jacqueline Chavez (Wigs & Make-Up)

(© OSW)

French composer Louise Bertin (1805-1877) has almost disappeared from the operatic radar, and we are grateful to Opera Southwest for carrying on with its excavation endeavors. Resurrections started with Franco Faccio’s Amleto in 2014, followed by Giovanni Bottesini’s Alì Babà in 2019, and last night with Louise Bertin’s Le Loup-garou (The Werewolf). The opera premiered in Paris in 1827 at the Opéra-Comique and was honorably received, scoring twenty-six performances, followed by a century-long oblivion. Bertin composed three other operas: Guy Mannering (1825), Fausto (1831), and La Esmeralda (1836). She went on to compose some piano works and a collection of poems. Most of these later works remain unpublished. Her four-act opera La Esmeralda, on a libretto by Victor Hugo, is probably her most accomplished work. It was revived by the Radio France Festival in Montpellier, France, in 2008. The CD of this concert performance conducted by Lawrence Forster is available (ASIN‏: ‎B002698DCU). Judging by Le Loup-garou’s score and the recording of La Esmeralda, critics seem to have been unjustly severe towards Bertin. The score of Le Loup-garou gives a sense of her elegant style and assertive character. In the words of Berlioz, she was "a [...] musician of considerable distinction."

The libretto of Le Loup-garou, by Eugène Scribe and Edouard Mazères, largely borrows from supernatural themes with their light-hearted but subtly sinister character. It narrates the story of Alice and Catherine preparing for their wedding when they learn a wolf is running loose, seducing young women, and spreading terror in the village. Is it a real wolf, or is one of the fiancés a werewolf? After several twists and turns of mistaken identity, all is well that ends well, and this comedy of errors wraps up in percolating merriment.

The cast assembled here consists of young singers participating in Opera Southwest’s Apprentice Program. All rise to the occasion and, as always, some fare better than others. Soprano Yejin Lee as Alice has a clear and ringing soprano, while Thomas Drew (Bertrand) is a convincing lyric tenor. If any of those young singers were to take up a French role in the future, they would have to perfect their enunciation of this language; what we heard last night left much to be desired.

The staging by Elizabeth Margolius was scant, to say the least, but singers, on such a naked stage, were directed with precision, allowing a better understanding of the storyline.

Dr. Denise L. Boneau published her thesis on Louise Bertin (University of Chicago) in 1989: Louise Bertin and opera in Paris in the 1820s and 1830s. It is a treasure trove of information and the absolute reference for anyone interested in this sadly neglected composer. It can be found on the Internet.

Opera Southwest Albuquerque

Christian Dalzon



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