Now and then, I find an opera that is not great in itself but enjoyable and interesting for what it tells us about its times and for what it predicts. Such is “Les Femmes vengees” (The Avenged Women) by Francois-Andre Danican Philidor that made its premier in 1775 and was revived and recorded in 2014 by Opera Lafayette. It is now available on a Naxos CD and worth the hearing. Ryhan Brown conducts.
The scenario, said to be a sort of sequel to Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” involves a plot by three wives—Madame Riss (Claire Debono), Madame Lek (Blandine Staskiewicz), and Madame la President (Pascale Beaudin)—and M. Riss (Jeffrey Thompson). The idea is to trap and humiliate M. Lek (Alex Dobson) and M. le President (Antonio Figueroa) when they come to make merry with Madame Riss.
So there is much hiding behind doors in the best tradition of French farce, much potential sex that never quite comes to fruition, and plenty of opportunity for semi-serious and outright satirical songs. The ensembles are especially good. In fact, if I didn’t know anything about the date of composition or the composer, I would have guessed at early Rossini or early Donizetti.
The booklet gives a detailed synopsis and a few interesting photos from the production. The libretto can be found on the Naxos website, while the recording (thankfully) has only the complete score. (The dialogue is long and would not be appreciated by non-French speakers.) All in all, a minor but pleasant little gem that deserves revival.