JAMES CONLON CONTINUES MISSION OF RESURRECTING NEGLECTED REPERTOIRE CONDUCTING LA OPERA’S WEST COAST PREMIERE OF PIONEERING BLACK COMPOSER JOSEPH BOLOGNE’S 1780 OPERA
THE ANONYMOUS LOVER
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.
LA Opera’s The Anonymous Lover is produced and streamed in partnership with the Colburn School, which will concurrently and collaboratively engage in a performance-based exploration of the works and legacy of Joseph Bologne.
About James Conlon
James Conlon, one of today’s most versatile and respected conductors, has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire. He has conducted virtually every major American and European symphony orchestra since his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1974. Through worldwide touring, an extensive discography and videography, numerous essays and commentaries, frequent television appearances and guest speaking engagements, Mr. Conlon is one of classical music’s most recognized interpreters.
Mr. Conlon is Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera (since 2006). In this role, he has led more performances than any other conductor in the company’s history—to date, nearly 400 performances of more than 50 different operas by over 20 composers. His recordings of LA Opera productions have received four Grammy® Awards, two respectively for JohnCorigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles and Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
In an effort to call attention to lesser-known works of composers silenced by the Nazi regime, Mr. Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music throughout Europe and North America. His efforts led to the creation of The OREL Foundation, an invaluable resource for music lovers, students, musicians, and scholars engaging with this subject matter, and the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School. Notable performances and recordings include the Recovered Voices series at LA Opera and an award-winning recording collection of operas and orchestral works by émigré composer Alexander Zemlinsky. For his efforts on behalf of suppressed composers, he has received such honors as the Roger E. Joseph Prize at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Crystal Globe Award from the Anti-Defamation League.
An enthusiastic advocate of public scholarship, Mr. Conlon leads popular pre-performance talks at LA Opera, drawing upon musicology, literary studies, history, and social sciences to contemplate—together with his audience—the enduring power and relevance of opera and classical music in general. Additionally, he frequently collaborates with universities, museums, and other cultural institutions, and works with scholars, practitioners, and community members across disciplines.
Mr. Conlon holds four honorary doctorates and has received numerous other awards, including France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur, which he personally accepted from then-President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac.
For more information, visit JamesConlon.com.
About LA Opera
Los Angeles is a city of enormous diversity and creativity, and LA Opera is dedicated to reflecting that vibrancy by redefining what opera can be. The communal and curative power of opera is needed now more than ever before, especially given the extraordinary challenges of the time. As LA Opera awaits its cue to return to the stage, the company is grateful to its supporters for helping to ensure that it has the resources needed to get through this unprecedented period. Those wanting to support LA Opera can go to LAOpera.org/Donate.
For more information, visit LAOpera.org.
# # #