Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie - David & Jonathas

Published Monday 13th May 2013
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie - David & Jonathas
Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie - David & Jonathas

STYLE: Choral
RATING 4 4 4 4
LABEL: Bel Air Classiques BAC093
FORMAT: DVD Music video

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This rare Biblical opera 'David and Jonathas' is, with 'Médée', one of the two major works of the French baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704). The opera has been in the repertoire of Les Arts Florissants since 1988 and was first presented in a stage production by William Christie in Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2012. Sadly, for this reviewer at least, the staging did not work. Scenery is reduced to a giant wooden box which must have made stage management easy but the costumes had totally the wrong impact looking, to me, like a clash between the cast of Fiddler On The Roof (for the Israeli Hebrews) versus a Fez-wearing convention of Tommy Cooper impersonators for the Palestinian Philistines. The singing is good and we raise our hats - or fezzes - to Pascal Charbonneau, a young tenor and a former student of the European Academy of Music in the role of David, soprano Ana Quintans as Jonathas, along with Neal Davies (Saül), Frédéric Caton (Achis), Kre¨imir ¦picer (Joabel) and Dominique Visse (La Pythonisse). Having Jonathas/Jonathan sung by a woman raises questions in my mind. I know it is very modern and on-message to portray David and Jonathan's great friendship as homo-erotic but I struggle to find this in the Hebrew text and any production that misreads the story to such a great extent is soon going to lose my sympathy. The other drawback is that the work goes on far too long and 130 minutes is more than I would want to endure again.

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