Richard, John, David, Karen, Bruce, and I saw Campra's *Les Fetes Venitiennes* at BAM on 4/16. It was performed by Les Arts Florissants, a French ensemble founded by William Christie that specializes in French Baroque opera and similar things. Karen and I saw their production of Lully's *Atys* in 2011 and it was without a doubt one of a handful of the most brilliant things I've ever seen. So I now see everything they do, and I'm never disappointed.
I'd never heard of the opera or the composer, Andre Campra. The opera is from 1710, and is a series of vignettes about those crazy Venitians. This production was directed by Robert Carsen, who added some anachronistic directorial splash, which I support, which used with taste (as it was in this case). For instance, the curtain came up to reveal three walls painted to look like St. Mark's Square in Venice. I thought we were in for some high style 18th century glamour, but then a chorus member sauntered onstage wearing jeans and a hoodie, and rolling a rolling bag! Ah, the wit!
Some hooker types came on later, wearing a variation of 18th century costume. The passed out costumes to the chorus, which the chorus changed into, onstage, during an interlude. Some of the gentlemen of the chorus stripped down to their Y-fronts, and while the results weren't always inspiring, it all made me smile.
The second half started with a scene that really felt like an opera: two women fighting over a man, that tired old routine. But the music was so saucy, and the ladies sang with insouciance. The bass baritone, Francois Lis, as the man they both loved, he had the most delicious voice. He played a few roles over the course of the show (as did most of the singers), and every appearance was a marvel. Soprano Rachel Redmond had the honors of the women we heard, a lovely, plush, delicious sound. She also had the most ravishing music of the evening, so she had that advantage. She played the woman who receives the bass baritone's serenade, and she responded with an aria about a butterfly, which I think might have been in Italian? I couldn't quite tell and would love to have that confirmed. In any case, my eyebrows were raised when she started singing, I felt like I was really at the opera. Would love to hear her again. I don't like *The Magic Flute*, I think it's a bore, but I would go if she were singing Pamina.
The orchestra was sublime, that goes without saying with this group. Crisp, full of fire and elegance. The dancing was fantastic. Choreographer Ed Wubbe even got the lead singers to dance in a believable way - - or maybe they went all *Chorus Line* on our ass, and cast dancing singers. Who knows. In any case, everyone danced with style and verve.
On the whole, a thoroughly enjoyable, brilliant performance. Can't wait for their next trip to town.