The Lyric Stage presents Andre Gretry's one act L'epreuve Villageoise this week at 8 pm. This work is an example of what Gretry did best, which was write comic operas. It's a comedy of young love, old love, and jealousy that of course ends happily. Gretry lived from 1741 until 1813 during a time of tumult in France - a long period of tensions leading to revolution and finally dictatorship.
His first version of the opera was longer and more serious than the final one act - the comic scenes with rustics were a sub-plot. But it was not successful, so Gretry and his librettist Desfarges took out the serious elements and concentrated on the comedy.
Marie Antoinette was in the audience in 1784 at Versailles to hear the first version of the opera, just as she was in the audience to hear the eleven year old Mozart's first opera at her home court in Vienna in 1767. She loved music. The appeal of Gretry's music was universal as the public liked it and so did Napoleon Bonaparte, who gave Gretry a pension. So if Napoleon and Marie Antoinette had ever met, they would have had at least one common subject to discuss.
The performance is by soloists and the chorus and orchestra of Opera Lafayette led by Opera Lafayette's founder, Ryan Brown. The group is based in Washington D. C. Mr. Brown has gained an international reputation for his interpretations of French opera and for his role in the revival of significant works from the 18th and 19th centuries, of which L'epreuve Villageoise is an example. Naxos has many of Opera Layfayette's excellent performances of neglected works like L'epreuve villageoise available.