Pinchgut Opera | Pleasures of Versailles & Love Conquers All
Two mini operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)
Saturday 9th September, 2023, City Recital Hall, Sydney
Soloisits – Cathy-Di Zhang, Lauren Lodge-Campbell, Hannah Fraser, Michael Petruccelli and David Greco
Orchestra of the Antipodes
Erin Helyard – conductor
Presenting two short unknown works written for Louis XIV around 350 years ago requires a leap of faith by the performers and the audience alike and in this production by Pinchgut Opera of these inconsequential works by the leading French composer of the very end of the 17th century, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, the leap of faith was justified. The performers and the production team didn’t take any of it seriously and that conveyed to the audience a sense of co-conspirator silliness. What was serious however was the excellent playing and singing.
These soap-opera length works, Pleasures of Versailles & Love Conquers All, amuse with their antics about love and duty to the king and other follies. That the audience was intrigued is due to Erin Helyard and the wonderful instrumentalists and singers who he has gathered around him.
In Pleasures of Versailles two characters playing La Musique and La Conversation have a ‘sing off’ to determine who pleases the king the most. The honey toned Lauren Lodge-Campbell as La Musique for me had the upper hand in the battle of Music over Conversation but only because Charpentier made it so. Cathy-Di Zhang, La Conversation, revelled in this churlish role and like all the singers was glorious. Hannah Fraser in her brief contributions sang beautifully and the tessitura here suited her voice perfectly. Michael Petruccelli and David Greco acted the support roles with panache and their vocal contributions were spot on.
The second little divertissement, Love Conquers All, was a perfect vehicle for the most lyrical of Australian tenors, Michael Petruccelli. Beautifully elegant when required he also laid on the angst in this role of the lover who feared his great amorous ambitions would go unrewarded. Hannah Fraser again had a small role but shone and the major set piece quintet showed all the singers to be in wonderful voice. David Greco is one of my favourite singers in this country and I loved his performance of the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra earlier this year where he dragged the audience through the battlefields of hell on earth and now here he is all light and fun. What a performer.
The band was only 8 players strong and they are amongst the finest performers of baroque music, not just here but anywhere, and the colours they coaxed from their various combinations of strings, flutes, harpsichord and theorbo was a delight.
The production team of director Shannon Burns and designer Melanie Liertz played up the lighthearted nature of these pretty works.
Leaving the City Recital Hall my imagination took flight and I wondered will there be an innovative group in Paris in the year 2380 and will they champion music from Sydney from the early 21st century.