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The Roman Paolo Lorenzani (1640-1713) was the only Italian musician other than Lully to hold a court post during the reign of Louis XIV (he was maître de musique to Queen Marie-Thérèse). In September 1681 his short pastoral opera Nicandro e Fileno (on a libretto in Italian by the Duke of Nevers, a nephew of Cardinal Mazarin) was performed at Fontainebleau for the king. The original production included a prologue, spoken dialogue improvised by actors from the Théâtre-italien and from the Comédie-française, comic intermezzos and an epilogue – none of which are included in this recording by Le Nouvel Opéra. Instead, we get the core drama: the decrepit widowers Nicandro and Fileno decide that their remaining years will be spent more happily if they marry each other’s daughters. Needless to say, the girls Filli and Clori have other ideas – although both are in love with the silver-tongued playboy Lidio.
The amorous shenanigans are depicted in an intriguing synthesis of musical elements that resembles Stradella adjusted to French taste. Nils Brown and Jean-Marc Salzmann play up the comic absurdity of the fathers. Suzie LeBlanc’s Filli has an articulate sparkle; an extended complaint about the agonies of love (‘Con inviti lusinghieri’) matches the soprano’s intelligent poeticism with doleful recorders and strings. Pascale Beaudin’s fruitier Clori captures her bitterness potently when she realises that Lidio prefers Filli (‘Lassa che far degg’io?’). The shallow Lidio is sung suavely by Philippe Gagné, whereas Dominic Côté conveys touching pathos as the scorned Eurillo. Francis Colpron directs the Montreal band Les Boréades with zestiness, nonchalance or expressive melancholy as each scene requires.
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