L'Amant Anonyme, by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, piano-vocal score
Piano-vocal score edition with orchestral reduction by Paul Seitz, and translation and editing of libretto (including spoken scenes) by Christine Seitz, opera director and professor of voice at the University of Missouri.
Purchase includes one download of item, either at checkout or using link in the confirmation email.
Like many, I was first drawn to the work of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), by his compelling life story. Bologne was born in Guadaloupe, his father a wealthy French plantation owner, his mother a slave from Senegal. Joseph and his mother were sent to Paris, where Joseph was provided with an aristocratic education from which he somehow emerged as a double celebrity – the most accomplished fencer in France and a respected virtuoso musician, composer, and orchestra leader. Although subject to injustices and limits on professional opportunities because of his African heritage, his wealth, friendships from school, and his celebrity (as a fencer and a musician) afforded him a social network that included many of the wealthiest and most powerful members of Parisian society and private patronage that gave him a platform for his talent and accomplishments. But that career coincided with the growing popular dissatisfaction in France over inequitable distribution of wealth that eventually led to the French Revolution. Joseph would live to see almost everyone he knew in Paris lose their wealth, their privilege and, in many cases, their lives.
With such a life story, it was a big disappointment to find that so many of Saint-Georges’ most popular and admired compositions have been lost. So I was excited to find an 18th century manuscript copy of the full score of Saint-Georges’ opera, L’Amant Anonyme (The Anonymous Lover) - premiered in 1780 - scanned and posted as a downloadable PDF file on the International Music Score Library Project web site (IMSLP.org), a database of public domain music. As I began studying that score, I realized that idiosyncrasies in that manuscript, e.g., the use of historical clefs, the presence of clefs and instrument names on only the first system of each musical number, the seemingly very hurried, shorthand nature of the notation (sometimes missing repeated articulations, ornaments, accidentals, etc.) and the lack of an orchestra reduction, would make this manuscript score very difficult for musicians to use in performing, or even studying, the work. At the same time, as I shared excerpts from the score with my wife, we were both convinced that this music very much needed to be studied and performed. As a composer with experience creating orchestral reductions for my own opera and concertos, I began producing piano-vocal scores of some of my favorite scenes for use by my wife and her students. Before long it became clear that the entire work deserved to be available and we decided to produce a complete piano- vocal score of the opera, based on the 18th century manuscript. While I worked on producing the musical notation, my wife studied the libretto (which included many short spoken scenes amidst the musical numbers), edited the sometimes inconsistent spellings, and created a translation from French to English. (The entire libretto, including the original 18th century French spelling, is included with the line-by-line translation.)
This opera surely deserves the variety of scholarly editions that can be found for most of the well-known 18th century operas and I’m sure those will be created in years to come. However, our immediate purpose in this edition is simply to present the content of the extant 18th century manuscript full score in a clear, easy to use, piano-vocal score that will allow musicians, teachers and students to gain access to this work for study and performance. We have included every detail in the full score. Where missing accidentals were clearly intended (e.g., they are present in some instruments but missing in others) we have included them with a footnote. We have included only the dynamics provided in the manuscript. In a few cases articulations provided in a passage later repeated (but missing articulations) have been placed in both. Otherwise, this edition simply presents the music exactly as it was presented in the manuscript, but in a much more usable format. It is our hope that it may encourage musicians to begin their exploration of this music and help to promote further performance and study of this wonderful opera.