Just sixteen years after Joseph Fielding’s riotous novel The history of Tom Jones, a foundling was published in England, François-André Danican Philidor’s musical setting premiered in Paris at the Comédie-Italienne. Although it falls into the 18th century opera-comique tradition, Tom Jones is actually a comédie mêlée d’ariettes, a comedy mixed with brief arias.
This 1979 live performance from Paris’s Salle Favart features an all-French cast, the best known names being Jean-Philippe Lafont and Suzanne Sarroca as Squire Western and his sister, characters memorably portrayed in Tony Richardson’s delicious 1963 film by Hugh Griffiths and Dame Edith Evans. Lafont’s hunting scene in the first act is a particular highlight of this recording.
Christiane Eda-Pierre’s delicious LP of opera-comique arias first introduced me to the music of Philidor and the Belgian André Grétry. It’s been recently reissued on an import double-CD set dedicated to Eda-Pierre and well worth hunting down, as is an out-of-print Ricercar CD featuring excerpts from Grétry’s Le Jugement de Midas. Washington’s Opera Lafayette has also just released a new CD of Philidor’s Les Femme Vengées on Naxos.
Philidor: Tom Jones
Salle Favart, Opéra comique
26 February 1979
Sophie: Michèle Pena
Mrs. Western: Suzanne Sarroca
Honora: Monique Pourradier-Dutheil
Tom Jones: Leonard Pezzino
M. Western: Jean-Philippe Lafont
Blifil: Charles Burles
Alworthy: Michel Hamel
Dowling: Charles Charras
L’hotesse: Claudine Collas
Richard: Jean-Pierre Granet
Le valet de Blifil: Jean-Paul Tomasi
Les buveurs: Guy Delorme, Claude Leblond
Valet d’auberge: Jean-Simon Prévost
Le bruiteur: Bernard Betremieux
Ensemble Orchestral de Paris
Conductor: Jean-Pierre Wallez