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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Claire Jackson

The Italian composer Paolo Lorenzani (1640-1713) remains little known outside musicological circles, largely due to his fall from favour among the French nobility, the local commissioning glitterati of the time. Nicandro e Fileno, premiered in 1681 at the Palace of Fontainebleau under the patronage of Louis XIV, was one of the first Italian-language operas to be performed in France, and was unusual for its subject matter: the plot focuses on the lives of every day villagers, rather than the action packed adventures of knights or Roman heroes that were popular with contemporaries.

Nicandro e Fileno is of short duration, and the score – revived in the early 20th century – lacks an overture (whether lost or simply unwritten is unknown). In this, the work’s first recording, Le Nouvel Opéra and Les Boréades de Montréal opt to add some instrumental pieces from Lully’s Amadis; this padding out works surprisingly well.

Tenor Nils Brown and baritone Jean-Marc Salzmann convince as the opera’s eponymous old friends who decide that each should marry the other’s daughter; the women – sopranos Suzie Leblanc and Pascale Beaudin – sensibly have other ideas, but both are in love with the village playboy. After some text book partner-swapping, the older men realise their error and the women settle their differences. Nicandro e Fileno is not a masterpiece – there are no heart-stopping arias or particularly exquisite orchestration – but Le Nouvel Opéra’s performance is enjoyable.


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