Grétry: L'épreuve villageoise

Reviewed on Fri 30 Dec, 2016

Grétry’s delightfully frothy opéra comique carries itself with a becoming wit and brio well framed here in nimbly idiomatic playing by the period-instrument American ensemble Opera Lafayette under founder Ryan Brown’s lightly lyrical baton.

An entertaining first recording of Grétry’s delightfully frothy opéra comique L’épreuve villageoise (‘The Village Trial’) makes a persuasive claim for its undemanding plot – the entanglements of two suitors with a farmer’s daughter and her widowed mother – and diverting prettiness. A substantially revised and reduced version of the earlier Théodore et Paulin, it carries itself with a becoming wit and brio well framed here in nimbly idiomatic playing by the period-instrument American ensemble Opera Lafayette under founder Ryan Brown’s lightly lyrical baton. Soprano Sophie Junker excels as the bright and enchanting Denise, relishing Grétry’s sugar-coated accompaniment, Francisco Fernández-Rueda’s light tenor makes much of the timorous André, Thomas Dolié brings a pleasing baritonal flourish to the philandering La France, with Talise Trevigne’s characterful mother adding a welcome touch of gravity. In all, a lively farce with a witty score of surprising sophistication and charm. Heard here without dialogue, its many musical pleasures become all the more immediate.
–Michael Quinn