Opera Lafayette is a world-class company. Its founder and artistic director, Ryan Brown, led his chamber orchestra, the Violins of Lafayette (strings plus a flute) in a journey down memory lane at the French Embassy on Monday. The performance, marking the opera's 10th anniversary, sampled 17th- and 18th-century French works it has performed through the decade. Two Metropolitan Opera veterans, tenor Jean-Paul Fouchecourt and bass-baritone Francois Loup, sang elegant arias and recitatives from operas of Charpentier, Rameau, Antonio Sacchini and Gluck.
Although a head cold dimmed -- by a shade -- Fouchecourt's otherwise moving Charpentier ("Acteon") and Rameau ("Pygmalion") offerings, no one could match his aria "J'ai perdu mon Eurydice" from Gluck's reform opera "Orphee et Eurydice." Both voice and gestures plunged to the heart of French style: Orphee's profound loss cast in statuesque dignity and utterly human grief that found release in breathtaking flights of embellishments.
Loup's voice gave commanding beauty to Sacchini's storied Oedipus, portrayed as a father adoring his daughter, a scene Loup swept away in streaming Italian lyricism that fit, yet somehow defied, its French text.
Brown led the orchestra in lovely pictorial opera excerpts. In some Lully morsels, the playing re-created visions of Louis XIV's court with its codified manners transformed into crisp, pulsing dances.
-- Cecelia Porter