University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Bizet: La Jolie Fille de Perth

09/09/2018 1:00 pm
09/09/2018 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This opera has a story rather loosely derived from the romantic novel, The Fair Maid of Perth (1828), by Sir Walter Scott. There's a St. Valentine's Day connection here. Scott's story starts when the "fair maid" steals a kiss on that special day for romance. The scene is set in Scotland in the days of the English king, Henry the Eighth. Scotland is not a country noted for the unbridled revelry of the French Mardi Gras, yet that pre-Lenten holiday also figures in the plot of Bizet's opera. The opera's real subject, however, is so universal it could apply to just about any nation on earth: the trials and tribulations of young lovers, their imagined infidelities, and their eventual amorous reconciliation.

This is not familiar Bizet, to be sure. We need to remember that Bizet wrote six operas other than Carmen. This particular opera is not quite up to Carmen's level of intense operatic passion, but it is tuneful and musically inventive throughout. Bizet's romantic melodrama exists in several different versions. In 1985 La Jolie Fille de Perth was issued in digital sound on three LPs by EMI of West Germany. This release presents the original 1867 version as reconstructed by David Lloyd Jones. The recording was made in Paris for Pathe Marconi with Georges Pretre conducting the Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique and the Chorus of Radio France. The "fair maid", aka Catherine Glover, is June Anderson. Also in the cast are operatic notables Alfredo Kraus, Gino Quilico, Gabriel Bacquier and Jose van Dam. I last broadcast this same recording on Sunday, February 15, 1987.