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Luigi Cherubini’s “Lodoïska” is a classic example of two genres
of opera which were popular in Paris during the French
Revolution era: “Rescue opera” and “Opéra comique.”
Although its 1791 premiere was Cherubini’s (1760-1842)
first attempt in these genres, “Lodoïska” was the longest
running opera of the decade, with approximately 200
performances.

The interest in “Rescue opera” had grown greatly since
André Grétry’s (1741-1813) “Richard Cœur-de-lion,” which
was considered to be the first example of the form, and
its popularity surged after the storming of the Bastille
in 1789. “Richard Cœur-de-lion” was also an “Opéra comique,”
meaning that spoken dialogue was used in lieu of musical
recitative, to provide narrative plot links between the lyric
numbers. The “Rescue opera” form reached its apogee
with the 1814 premiere of “Fidelio” by Ludwig Van
Beethoven, and Gioacchino Rossini’s “Torvaldo e Dorliska,”
completed the following year. Although France had become
Cherubini’s adopted country since 1787, his operatic influence
greatly waned after 1810. Toward the end of his life,
he primarily composed church music. In 1822, he assumed
the directorship of the National Conservatoire in Paris.
By the time of his death, performances of his operas had
ceased for some time.

The 18th Century “Lodoïska” was an idiomatically “Classical”
opera, albeit one with a lot of “Sturm und Drang,” and there
were instances reminiscent of the works of Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart.” Set in Poland around 1600, the plot involves the
rescue of Lodoïska and her lover, Count Floreski, from the
castle of the tyrant Dourlinski. The story itself didn’t interest me
in the least. However, this “live” recording was taken from
an excellent, dramatic performance of the opera, under the
baton of Riccardo Muti. Stage movement noises were quite
audible, along with the clanging of weapons during the sword
fights, giving me a sense of “being there.” Somehow, the
singers were closely miked, which might have provided an
unrealistic aural perspective. While their performances were
adequate, no particular standouts come to mind.

Nevertheless, I’m glad that I heard “Lodoïska,” because it
afforded me an opportunity to experience a historically
significant opera, from a period that hasn’t received a lot of
attention from recording companies. Kudos to Maestro
Riccardo Muti for taking this work on, and doing a fine job!

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