OP0391. FORTUNIO (Messager), Recorded 1987, Opéra de Lyon w. Gardiner Cond.Opéra de Lyon Ensemble; Thierry Dran, Colette Aillot-Lugaz, Gilles Cachemaille, Michel Trempont, etc. 2-Erato 75390, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 207pp. Libretto-Brochure in French, English & German. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 08908853902
“André Messager studied with Saint-Saëns and Fauré, and became a versatile musician: composer, pianist, critic, opera administrator, and the first conductor Debussy's PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE (which was dedicated to him). He made his name particularly as a composer of frothy operettas, following a distinguished French tradition, but his style did extend more widely.
As musical director of the Opéra-Comique and later the Opéra, Messager was an experienced performer in the theatre. His international career included many appearances at Covent Garden, where he conducted Don Giovanni, Carmen and Faust. Fauré described him as 'familiar with everything, knowing it all, fascinated by anything new'.
This reissue of FORTUNIO finds Messager at the peak of his creative form. For this is a sophisticated opera, not merely a frothy operetta. The style is admittedly light, but that is its strength, with subtle vocal lines above beautiful melodic strands in the orchestra. The orchestration is particularly imaginative, and contributes tellingly to the more powerful, climactic moments when they emerge from the prevailing trend.
The opera is based on Alfred de Musset play LE CHANDELIER. This in fact refers not to lighting but rather to a decoy for a love affair. Fortunio is a young apprentice who is intended as protection for an affair between the lawyer's wife Jacqueline and the handsome soldier Clavaroche. Inevitably, since this is a French story, Fortunio himself falls for Jacqueline, only to learn in dismay of the other affair.
The Opéra de Lyon production of 1987 was recorded by Erato, and the cast certainly makes an effective team. Among the principals, Michel Trempont is on excellent form as the betrayed husband Maître André, while Gilles Cachemaille is equally good as the self confident, appealing figure of Captain Clavaroche. Colette Alliot-Lugaz is vocally beguiling as the beautiful Jacqueline, around whom the opera centres. As the young and rather naïve Fortunio, Thierry Dran is on good form dramatically, though his vocal tone is far from reliable.
John Eliot Gardiner conducts with admirable vitality and maintains a disciplined ensemble, though occasionally his phrasing might have found a more Gallic charm and warmth. The orchestral playing is good, well balanced in a recording perspective which allows details to be heard in just the right proportion.”
- Terry Barfoot, MusicWebInternational