Dec 31, 2007

Minuit Chrériens

Because the general knowledge of the average redneck all around the world (here included) is always wrong, some great things that came to the world are indeed from France. The timing couldn't be more right to speak about one of the most famous Christmas music: Minuit, chrétiens!, by French composer Adolphe Adam. Never heard of it? Oh, of course you know it guys, it's not like I'm making this up. Hélas, you know the English translation of it, O holy night. Very bad translation I may had. One of those who loose the general concept of the whole stuff. The original version was written by Placide Cappeau, friend of a relatively unknown singer Mrs Laurey, who knew Adam back in 1840 when she sung in one of his operas, La Rose de Péronne. She sent the lyrics to Adam in the beginning of December 1847 and it took him only a few days to compose the music. Ironically, the piece was originally created to be played in a small church in the middle of Provence. It is now a worldwide athem. Even if there's little, in the English translation, of this incredible ferveur (another French word hard to translate), this total devotion to God, filled with admiration and love. Minuit chrétien, c'est l'heure solennelle Où l'homme Dieu descendit jusqu'à nous, Pour effacer la tache originelle Et de son père arrêter le courroux : Le monde entier tressaille d'espérance A cette nuit qui lui donne un sauveur Peuple, à genoux attends ta délivrance, Noël ! Noël ! Voici le Rédempteur ! Noël ! Noël ! Voici le Rédempteur ! De notre foi que la lumière ardente Nous guide tous au berceau de l'enfant Comme autrefois, une étoile brillante Y conduisit les chefs de l'Orient Le Roi des Rois naît dans une humble crèche, Puissants du jour fiers de votre grandeur, A votre orgueil c'est de là qu'un Dieu prêche, Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur ! Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur ! Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave, La terre est libre et le ciel est ouvert Il voit un frère ou n'était qu'un esclave L'amour unit ceux qu'enchaînait le fer, Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance ? C'est pour nous tous qu'il naît, qu'il souffre et meurt : Peuple, debout ! chante ta délivrance, Noël ! Noël ! chantons le Rédempteur ! Noël ! Noël ! chantons le Rédempteur ! I am not a believer in any God there is (or there isn't), but I admit I am deeply touched by the original words of Placide Cappeau. On the other hand of course, this is actually pretty close to religious fanatism. By the way, auguri a tutti, bonne année & happy new year. May 2008 bring you some fantastic musical emotions and discoveries. More on the matter: Well-documented page about the whole genesis of the piece in French here. YouTube extracts: young Roberto Alagna on French TV (in Dimanche Martin, a myth of French television), rehearsal of the Académie de musique de Paris (great baritone).

Dec 28, 2007

119 Champs Elysées

Natalie Dessay was one of the many celebrities invited to the Opening of the new Nespresso flagship in France (Dec.15), located on the prestigious Champs Elysées. She did performed a few arias a cappella s'il vous plaît.
With Julie Depardieu.
Sharon Stone was also there.
Different subject, same Dessay: several video extracts from the 2007 Liceu Manon rehearsals with Rolando Villazon are available on YouTube (extracts from French TV Mezzo).

Dec 22, 2007

New Grand Opera in Beijing

Today is the inauguration of the Beijing National Theater designed by French architect Paul Andreu, located in the heart of the city (near Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City). This new complex includes a concert hall (2000 seats), a theater (1100 seats) and an Opera House (2400 seats), all under an oval-shaped steel structure covered with titanium.

A gallery of computer images from the project can be found inside the Paul Andreu's website; great photographs here.

Further readings:

Dec 14, 2007

House on fire

During a performance of La Bohème in the Opera Theater of the Seoul Arts Center, everybody had to be evacuated, as fire erupted 15 minutes after the start of the evening. The Korea Times reported the story with the sharpest accuracy: the fire was extinguished in 23 minutes (not 22 or 24 it seems), thanks to the 130 firefighters in 32 fire trucks (not 31 or 33). " The inside of the theater filled with dense smoke causing low visibility within minutes. The more than 2,400 performers, staff and spectators present were immediately evacuated. Around 60 people were taken to a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation. No injuries were reported." Spectators reported that the art center's firefighting system did not work which is a huge deal, if you consider the Theater is pretty new (it opened in 1993); no assessment of the damage sustained by the theater has yet been released, but the Arts Center issued its apologies "to have occasioned the audience and you so much anxiety on account of the fire incident of Opera Theater on Dec.12". The two remaining performances of La Bohème were cancelled (yesterday and tonight). The Opera House is "characterized by a traditional top-hat-shaped roof and a lower section which resembles a human sitting with his legs crossed, is the compact embodiment of the entire Center. The first and only Opera House in Asia, a seven-story building with one floor under and six above the ground is composed of Opera Theater for operas, Towol Theater for plays, Jayu Theater for more experimental productions and backstage. Praised for its absorbent power and intimacy between the stage and the audience, the Opera Theater houses about 2,300 seats. It has a main stage sprawling over 660m2 of floor space, three completely partitioned stages, two supplementary stages and a three-level orchestra pit with capacity of 100 people." I guess they just didn't think of fire extinguishers when they built it...

Dec 12, 2007

Strikes update

Opéra de Paris:

The strikes are over as every technician is back to work; yet, due to unknown causes (something about the scene of Bastille being staged for the Nutcracker and therefore preventing the switch to the Tannhäuser set - I didn't get the point though), the Paris Opera is maintaining the current semi-staged arrangement: no sets, but costumes, and lights.

The huge news though is that the website has posted the update in French and English (yes, talk about a miracle). I guess lights are on in the webmaster's brain too now.

Teatro San Carlo, Napoli, BNF archives


Strike was avoided in Milan on Dec.7 for the Scala Prima, thanks to Stephane Lissner being able to convince the Italian government to give the 1250 workers a €3.2 million bonus to be shared amongst them.

Yet, performances in Genova (Teatro Carlo Felice), Palermo (Teatro Massimo) and Florence (Teatro del Maggio Musicale) were once again cancelled and, after weeks of turmoil in the Italian Opera Houses all around the country, the situation stands firmly unresolved.

As Jean-Jacques Bozonnet mentions in Le Monde today, the situation is a bit desperate everywhere: money is nowhere to be found, and the Teatro San Carlo in Napoli and the Teatro del Maggio Fiorentino are on the brink of bankruptcy, as was the House in Cagliari a few years back.

That situation has striking resemblances to the current situation some Opera Houses are facing in France right now (Avignon, Metz and Tours), with the French Government threatening to cut its fundings.

Dec 11, 2007

Opera for the masses

Between this so-called Verdi Gala and the currently touring Carmen Monumental Opera production, it seems opera is becoming available for masses. I'm torn between praising the effort to seek new audiences for opera and bashing these producers who clearly have money in mind instead of quality. As Renaud Machart mentions in his piece from Le Monde (Dec.5), "monumental" is clearly an overstatement, as the total number of participants is less important than any production staged at the Paris Opera, for an equivalent price, with an average cast, terrible orchestra and insignificant conductor. I'm now waiting for that innovative producer that will turn American Idol (or "Star Academy" as it's called here in France) into "American Opera Idol", kinda like what happened last year in Britains Got Talent with Paul Potts, but less spontaneous and more orchestrated. How else are we going to discover the next great Andrea Bocelli? PS. Am I the only one to care that Paul Potts sounds a lot like Khmer leader Pol Pot?

Dec 9, 2007

8 décembre

Opéra de Lyon 8 décembre 2007

Dec 7, 2007

Fête des lumières 2007

Opéra de Lyon Pêcheurs d'étoiles Place Louis Pradel 6 décembre 2007
More info in French and in English; other photographs here.

Dec 5, 2007

Orange 2008

Next summer in Orange, Les Chorégies will feature two French operas from the XIXth century; world famous Bizet's Carmen (July 12 and 15) and Gounod's Faust (August 2 and 5). The Carmen cast includes Marcelo Alvarez (Don José), Béatrice Uria-Monzon (Carmen) and impressive French mezzo Karine Deshayes (Mercédès), all conducted, as usual in Orange, by Michel Plasson. Nadine Duffaut will direct the opera, and that's an awful news to me (her staging of last year's Les Pêcheurs de Perles in Avignon was dreadful, to say the least). Faust will feature Roberto Alagna (Faust), René Pape (Méphistophélès), Inva Mula (Marguerite) and sensational French bass Nicolas Testé as Wagner (too bad the part is so small), all under the conducting of Michel Plasson - again. Nicolas Joël will direct this cast, for his last staging before taking over the Paris Opera. French TV channel France 2 will broadcast Faust live, as it did last summer with Orange's production of Il Trovatore, with was successful enough to allow this second broadcast. Also worth noticing, the performance of Fauré's Requiem on July 26 in the Cathédrale Notre Dame d'Orange, to commemorate its 800-year existence. Online booking is available, prices range from €220 to €48 (for Faust and Carmen). Preview for the 2009 Summer: - Traviata with Patrizia Ciofi - Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana with Roberto Alagna and Béatrice Uria-Monzon Preview for the 2010 Summer: Gounod's Mireille, probably once again conducted by Michel Plasson, with Franck Ferrari and Karen Vourc'h (Vincenette).

Official website of Les Chorégies.

Dec 4, 2007

Tobias Richter in Geneva

In order to put the crisis behind, Tobias Richter was appointed new General Manager of Le Grand Théâtre de Genève, effective in the summer of 2009. He is currently the GM of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf and Duisbourg) and director of the Montreux-Vevey Musical September Festival. A director, he began his career in 1972 in Geneva and agreed not to direct any production after the summer of 2009, to focus exclusively on the job of GM. Apart from the obvious human crisis in Geneva, a suicide of a technician in 2006, tensions between the staff and the direction, the firing of Secretary General Antonio Soragni and internal problems, Le Grand Théâtre is also facing a huge financial crisis; since a big sponsor, the Wilsdorf Foundation, left last year with its annual 600.000 euros donation, the city of Geneva had to vote an extra 1,5 million euros subvention to cover the debts of the 2007-2008 season. And that's without even thinking of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, that is threatening to withdraw as well. Tobias Richter will focus the Opera House repertoire (from 2010, the first season he will be able to schedule) around Wagner and Verdi (he wants 2013 to be a huge celebration of the bicentennial anniversary of Verdi's birth) and contemporary composers such as Peter Eötvös and Beat Furrer. Further reading (in French): Tribune de Genève, Le temps, Romandie News, 20 minutes.

Dec 1, 2007

"La grande traversée"

Nous sommes en 2007 après Jésus-Christ ; toute la Gaule est occupée par les Romains... Toute ? Non ! Car un village peuplé d'irréductibles Gaulois résiste encore et toujours à l'envahisseur. Et la vie n'est pas facile pour les garnisons de légionnaires romains des camps retranchés d'Elyseum, Matignum, Châtelum et Palaisroyalum...

Depuis le début du soulèvement populaire, le centurion Gérarum Mortimus s'est fait bien discret. Il faut dire qu'il a d'autres préoccupations en tête. Là-bas, très loin, par delà les océans, une nouvelle vie l'attend chez les glouglous. Alors forcément, la révolte des Gaulois du Coliseum de Lutèce ne l'intéresse pas vraiment et il en a délégué la gestion à son décurion Dominicum Legrandus.

Sauf que la révolte se prolonge et tient désormais plus de la guérilla sporadique que d'un mouvement de grande ampleur. Pour autant, les annulations des Jeux continuent et menacent désormais les Jeux de Fin d'Année, la vitrine du Coliseum aux yeux des citoyens romains. Sans compter que les sesterces commencent à manquer cruellement (3 millions à la fin novembre, 10 à 15 millions si les Jeux de Fin d'Année sont touchés).

Mais qu'attend Caesar pour envoyer les légions?

[Texte librement inspiré de l'article du Monde paru hier, "L'Opéra de Paris paralysé par le problème des régimes spéciaux"]