VIRTUAL PERFORMANCE TO BE AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING ON DEMAND FROM SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14 AT 5:00 P.M. PT UNTIL SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29 AT 12:00 P.M. PT
Premiere webcast to be preceded by November 7 web seminar featuring
James Conlon in discussion about this long-neglected opera, its composer,
and the new LA Opera production
Left to right: LA Opera Music Director James Conlon; poster for LA Opera’s production of
The Anonymous Lover; Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA (October 30, 2020) — For Music Director James Conlon, LA Opera’s West Coast premiere of Joseph Bologne’s The Anonymous Lover (L’Amant Anonyme) represents an extension of his personal mission to shed new light on neglected or marginalized corners of the repertoire. He said:
“I have long taken a special interest in music by composers whose names and works have been virtually eliminated from history. LA Opera audiences know this well; the Recovered Voices project introduced them to a part of the extraordinary literature of works by composers whose music was banned and whose lives were disrupted—or worse—by the Third Reich.
“Our presentation of The Anonymous Lover, by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges [1745–99], is a worthy extension of that mission. Both the opera and the composer, born in Guadeloupe of a French father and a Senegalese mother, have been essentially ignored over more than two centuries, unquestionably because of the composer’s race. It is worth noting that he was celebrated in his time as a Renaissance man: a prodigious fencing champion and master, overall sportsman, violinist, conductor and composer.
“Although there is much of his life that is incompletely documented, it is known that he lived under the same roof with Mozart when the younger composer came to Paris for the third time and there is suggestive evidence that Mozart took some very important ideas from the elder Saint-Georges.
“Just as important, it was Saint-Georges himself who traveled to meet Haydn in Esterházy, commissioned six symphonies from him (later to become known as Haydn’s Paris Symphonies), edited them for publication and conducted the premieres with his own orchestra.
“With this special online performance, I hope that opera lovers throughout Los Angeles, and well beyond, will enjoy this opportunity to hear the work of a composer whose music, a quintessential product of the Classical period, is ripe for rediscovery.”
Though Joseph Bologne’s instrumental music has received renewed attention in recent decades, his one surviving, complete opera, The Anonymous Lover, has gone nearly unheard since its premiere in 1780. In this revival production—a free, virtual-only, streaming-on-demand experience from Saturday, November 14 at 5:00 p.m. PT until Sunday, November 29 at 12:00 p.m. PT (reserve via LAOpera.org)—Mr. Conlon conducts from the newly created, first critical edition of the score, prepared by Opera Ritrovata based on the original 18th-century manuscript. Mr. Conlon also chose to incorporate into the performance an aria from the composer’s 1777 opera Ernestine, which survives incomplete.
In addition to bringing Joseph Bologne’s music back to the stage, the LA Opera production seeks to restore the creative vision of another marginalized figure, Félicité de Genlis, who wrote the play on which the opera was based. Though her play focuses on the turbulent inner life and evolution of the female protagonist Léontine, the opera’s original libretto shifted the focus to Léontine’s secret admirer Valcour, the “anonymous lover” of the title. As an opéra comique, this opera includes both sung and spoken text, and for the upcoming performance, Mr. Conlon collaborated with director Bruce Lemon, Jr., who created the production’s socially distanced staging, and dramaturg Dr. Ariane Helou to restore to the opera’s spoken dialogue the female perspective of the original play.
Left to right: LA Opera Music Director James Conlon;
stage director Bruce Lemon, Jr.; dramaturg Dr. Ariane Helou
In advance of this season-opening production, Mr. Conlon discusses The Anonymous Lover and Joseph Bologne in a web seminar exploring the lost music of composers of color, presented as part of LA Opera Connects on Saturday, November 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. PT. Hosted via Zoom from the Colburn School, the seminar also features conversations with Mr. Lemon and Dr. Helou, among others, and performances of works by Joseph Bologne and other Black composers, played by Colburn Conservatory students. Registration is $20 per person. Visit LAOpera.org/Connects for details.