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La caravane du Caire, also Grétry, was actually first done at Fontainebleau. The caravan is peopled by slaves on their way to Cairo. A Frenchman rescues them from an Arab attack, just as his father had saved one of the Pasha's ships. The harem is thoroughly international, and a once favoured Italian is now jealous of a new French purchase. The admirable Karthäuser powerfully expresses the fierce tensions within her hothouse confines [listen -- chapter 6, 19:32-21:05]. The Egyptians meanwhile exhibit characteristic good spirits in a dance to celebrate the Pasha's visit to the bazaar in search of further bargains for the harem [listen -- chapter 7, 26:55-27:59].

Sophie Karthäuser. © 2006 Vox lucida
Sophie Karthäuser. © 2006 Vox lucida

Gossec returns with an enchanting Symphonie concertante that features five solo wind instruments with the orchestra. A main delight of the film is that players may be mostly in the pit, but sometimes feature in a box or lined up on stage only to have doors closed on them when no longer prominent [listen -- chapter 8, 29:27-30:54]. The final piece in the concert may again be from Céphale et Procris, though the booklet labelling is hardly precise any more than it can count tracks accurately. The music is in any case a brisk envoi, during which the queen makes her exit amid the well-deserved credits [listen -- chapter 15, 80:37-81:17].

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Copyright © 11 October 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


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