in: News & Features

October 26, 2018

A Gounod Journey Through Sensual Melody

by

Charles Gounod

Odyssey Opera extends its salute to the French composer Charles Gounod, as Boston’s most innovative opera company claims the local premiere of the 1858 Le médecin malgré lui  (The Doctor in Spite of Himself).

In its sixth season, Odyssey, one of the nation’s most adventurous companies, continues its Gounod voyage on Friday November 9th at 7:30pm and Sunday November 11th at 2pm, in the Huntington Avenue Theater. “Gounod is rightly viewed as the creator of the genre of lyric opera,” explains Gil Rose, Odyssey artistic and general director. “Not only was he the creator of Faust and Romeo et Juliette, he substantially influenced the course of French music and helped restore a higher sense of artistic purpose to the French stage.” Often regarded as the apostle of a lyrical, sensual, seductive Romanticism, “Gounod knows how to grasp and transcribe the human heart. He had a magical gift for melody.”

This year is the bicentennial of Gounod’s birth, and Odyssey Opera offers a chance to become better-acquainted with one of the major French composers of the second half of the 19th century. Based on a play by the great satirist Moliére, Le médecin malgré lui is a three-act comic opera set to a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. This Odyssey production features baritone Stephen Salters (Sganarelle), mezzo-soprano Tascha Anderson (Jacqueline), tenor Piotr Buszewski (Leandre) in his Boston debut, and full orchestra and chorus conducted by Rose, with stage direction by Daniel Pelzig (Santa Fe Opera, Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago). The fully staged production will be sung in French with English subtitles, recitatives added by Erik Satie, “never heard before.”

Le médecin malgré lui (sometimes called The Mock Doctor) was first performed in Paris, at the Lyrique on January 15, 1858. The elegant orchestration and vivid characters enchanted audiences and artists alike. Stravinsky and Strauss greatly admired it and Berlioz proclaimed it “Gounod is at his best!” In 1923 Serge Diaghilev commissioned Satie to compose recitatives to replace the spoken dialogue in order to transform it into an entirely sung opera, and that incarnation premiered in Monte Carlo the next year.

Described by the New York Times as “bold … intriguing,” Odyssey Opera’s season kicked off with another work by Gounod, La reine de saba (September 22). The remainder features three operas inspired by Helen of Troy: a fully staged production of Paride ed Elena (Paris and Helen) by Gluck (February 15th and 17th 2019); a concert performance of Die ägyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen) by Strauss (April 19 2019); and a season-ending fully staged production of the hilarious La belle Hélène (The Beautiful Helen) by Offenbach (June 14 and 16 2019).

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Founded in 2013 by artistic director/conductor Gil Rose, Odyssey Opera presents adventurous and eclectic works that affirm opera as a powerful expression of the human experience. Its world-class artists perform the operatic repertoire from its historic beginnings through lesser-known masterpieces to contemporary new works and commissions in varied formats and venues. Odyssey Opera sets standards of high musical and theatrical excellence and innovative programming to advance the operatic genre beyond the familiar and into undiscovered territory. Odyssey Opera takes its audience on a journey to places they’ve never been before.

Charles Gounod: Le médecin malgré lui

Sganarelle: Stephen Salters (baritone)
Leandre: Piotr Buszewski (tenor) (Boston debut)
Jacqueline: Tascha Anderson (mezzo-soprano)
Geronte: James Demler (baritone)
Lucas: Stefan Barner (tenor)
Martine: Whitney Robinson (mezzo-soprano)
Lucinde: Kristen Watson (soprano)
Conductor: Gil Rose
Director: Daniel Pelzig

Odyssey Opera Orchestra and Chorus

OdysseyOpera.org

Friday November 9 at 7:30pm and Sunday November 11 at 2pm

Huntington Avenue Theater
264 Huntington AvenueBoston MA

 

$25 and up: visit odysseyopera.org or call 617.826.1626.

 

1 Comment [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. The version incorporating Satie’s recitatives was performed by Yale Opera in 2004. https://news.yale.edu/2004/04/15/yale-opera-performs-rare-gounod-opera I don’t know if that version has been performed elsewhere.

    This comic opera has also been performed locally at Gordon College (Wenham, MA) in separate 2006 and 2008 productions. We performed it in my own English translation with a slightly reduced orchestration. We did not use Satie’s recitatives (though I was aware of them), but translated versions of the original spoken dialogue, most of which is taken almost directly from Moliere’s play.

    It is a delightful show with some great tunes, and I highly recommend people check out this production. I’ll do a minor bit of self-promotion to note that you can sample a few of those tunes on the “karaoke” page I created for our 2008 production. http://thedoctorinspiteofhimself.com/doctor.html#karaoke Sadly, I never got around to creating karaoke for the wonderful drinking song, which is a definite highlight. It can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvxo75AOAkg in an old French recording.

    It is a tricky show to present since the plot makes light of spousal abuse quite a bit, though very much in a commedia dell’arte “Punch and Judy” fashion. Even before the laudable #metoo movement, thinking of how best to deal with this content was a challenge. Will be interested to see how Odyssey Opera handles it!

    Comment by Michael Monroe — October 29, 2018 at 1:33 pm

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