Even before the Age of Craft Beer and Artisanal Beard Oil, Kings County had an institution devoted to marketing authenticity and a “smaller is better” aesthetic: its redoubtable Brooklyn Academy of Music. BAM has served as the major New York distribution point for the early-music (or HIP, for historically informed performance) movement, which has flourished for three decades in Europe, the Bay Area and Boston—but not Gotham. The institution has imported and promoted prominent and promising shows, often with the help of expat conductor William Christie, an American-born Baroque specialist and a national hero in France for his efforts in restoring the works of such great composers as Jean-Baptiste Lully, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
Now, Christie celebrates his long association with BAM by presenting a production of a long-dormant Charpentier work from 1688, which triumphed in Aix-en-Provence last year. David et Jonathas examines the story of David (the Goliath slayer) and Jonathan, the son of his patron-persecutor, Saul. Described as “a Romeo and Juliet story from the Old Testament,” the opera is directed by Andreas Homoki using modern dress. And even though the part of Jonathas is sung by a soprano (Ana Quintans), as is often the case in Baroque opera, Homoki brings out resonances with today’s fight for open gay partnerships.
Canadian boy-next-door tenor Pascal Charbonneau is David, terrific Baroque bass Neal Davies sings Saul, and countertenor Dominique Visse, the dragmaster of HIP, slithers in as a fortune-teller, La Pythonisse. Best of all, Christie’s wonderful ensemble, Les Arts Florissants—named for another gorgeous Charpentier work—is in the pit.—David Shengold