Oct 29, 2007

Oct 27, 2007

Aux armes, citoyens!

The great thing about opera is that you get to talk about anything, really. The Paris Opera has just announced some cancellations planned over the next few days; the world premiere of a ballet by Wayne McGregor, Genus, and Medea's Dream by the Angelin Preljocaj as well as a performance of Tosca, currently receiving a big success at l'Opéra Bastille (the dance evenings play at l'Opéra Garnier). Why is that? Well, I know it sounds desperately cliché but the employees are going on strike over pension reform. I'm so fed up with how selfish and dumm the French people can sometime act (thank God, they're not always like that). We have one of the best health-care systems in the world, a fantastic state-run pension system, we damn well know it's ruining us and killing the entrepreneurs thus causing a cycle of poor economic growth (our Prime Minister got busted by our new president/God a couple of months ago because he admitted on a radio interview that we were, indeed, facing a recession), we know all that, everybody knows, and yet, instead of sharing the burden, the French have that tendency to keep it all to themselves. I can't emphasize enough how I love our Social Security, how I love our maybe so-old-fashioned state-run pension system. Yet, some "troupes de mouches", to use this XIXth century vocabulary I love so much, go on strike and protest all the time instead of thinking of the Greater Good. No wonder many across the globe see us as little midgets yelling around like crazy. If you think about it going on strike and protesting on a regular basis is really kind of a French trademark. How sad a reputation is that.

Mise à jour du 31 octobre:
La grève qui dure à l'Opéra de Paris, ça mérite bien un mini-article de Renaud Machart dans Le Monde daté du 1er novembre.

Oct 25, 2007

Critique d'époque

About Gounod's Faust (I love the first few words) ;
" Taisez-vous, troupe de mouches, car le choeur des enthousiastes s'avance et va couvrir de sa grande voix vos monotones bourdonnements. Ils sont nombreux les enthousiastes de M. Gounod, ceux qui comprennent son talent et qui l'admirent, ceux qui s'inclinent devant le jeune maître et osent le suivre dans les hautes régions qu'il habite. Je me joins à eux pour proclamer le grand succès de Faust, succès de bon aloi qui repose sur le mérite de l'oeuvre." Ernest Reyer, extrait d'un article paru dans Le Courrier de Paris, réimpression sous le titre Quarante Ans de Musique (non daté)

My translation ;
" Quiet, troops of flies, the chorus of enthusiastic people is moving forward and will cover with its majestic voice your monotonus buzz. The enthusiasts of mister Gounod are everywhere, they understand his talent and admire it, they bow before the young master and dare to follow him in the higher realms he lives in. I join them to proclaim the great success of Faust, a worthy success that lies on the merit of the work."

Oct 23, 2007

Le médecin malgré lui

Charles Gounod

Opéra comique en 3 actes, créé le 15 Janvier 1858 au Théâtre-Lyrique de Paris.
142 performances at the Théâtre Lyrique until 1870 (58 in 1858 alone), 30 at l'Opéra Comique (1872, 1886).

Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Molière's play. Speaking parts are extracts of the original text of Molière, the singing parts are inspired from the play.

The score was composed by Gounod in three months, ready to be rehearsed in the beginning of October 1857. But because of some conflicts of interest with La Comédie Française, the institution in charge of Molière's plays performances, Gounod had to beg Achille Fould (minister of state and of the imperial household, in charge of opera) to save the project. Princess Mathilde Bonaparte (first cousin of the emperor Napoleon III and great supporter of the Arts) also intervened, and Gounod was able to play his opera at the Théâtre Lyrique.

Synopsis in French here.

" Avoir une femme est une sotte affaire
Et qu'Aristote a bien raison,
Quand il dit qu'une femme est un démon."

The adaptation of the text of Molière for the opera has some issues, especially since the play consists of two distinct dramatic stories that aren't simultaneous.
The first one is about the marital disputes between Martine and Sganarelle and her plan to get him hired as a doctor by Géronde to cure his daughter Lucinde.
The second half of the play is about the love affair between Lucinde and Léandre. In the text, Léandre first appears in the last scene of Act 2 whereas Lucinde no longer speaks until the end of Act 3.

The libretto has therefore some changes; Léandre gets an aria in the beginning of Act 2 that has nothing to do with the original text but serves as an introduction of the character; in the end of Act 2, Barbier and Carré also add a new scene (a "divertissement"), providing Gounod with the possibility of a grand finale for the act.

" Cette partition, la première que j'aie eu l'occasion d'écrire dans le genre comique, est d'une allure facile et légère qui se rapproche de l'opéra bouffe italien. J'ai tâché d'y rappeler, dans certains passages, le style de Lulli ; mais l'ensemble de l'ouvrage reste néanmoins dans la forme moderne et participe de l'école française.

Parmi les morceaux qui furent le plus goûtés, se trouve la Chanson des glouglous, supérieurement dite par Meillet, à qui on la redemandait toujours ; le Trio de la bastonnade, le Sextuor de la consultation, un Fabliau, la Scène de consultation des paysans, et un duo entre Sganarelle et la nourrice. "

Extrait de Mémoires d'un Artiste, autobiographie de Charles Gounod, disponible ici.

" Il n'a pas seulement remporté l'une de ces faciles victoires que proclament les masses, mais il a réussi au point de vue de l'art."

Jules Lovy, journal Le Ménestrel, 17 janvier 1858.

1858 in the life of Gounod:
  • death of his mother Victoire Lemachois on Jan.16 (one day after the premiere of Le Médecin Malgré Lui)
  • Carvalho (director of the Théâtre Saint-Martin) and Royer (director of the Théâtre Lyrique) postpone Faust even with half the score already written
  • spends some time in a mental hospital, as Berlioz mentions in a letter to Escudier in October 8, 1858 : Tu sais sans doute le nouveau malheur qui vient de frapper la famille Zimmermann : ce pauvre Gounod est devenu fou, il est maintenant dans la maison de santé du docteur Blanche, on désespère de sa raison.

Théâtre Lyrique, Paris, 1859

1858 in France:
  • Jan.14: bombing against the Emperor Napoleon III and wife Eugénie, in front of the Opera (rue Le Pelletier) by Felice Orsini relating to the unification of Italy: 18 dead, more than 150 injured (Orsini and accomplish throw three bombs in the crowd).
    The couple were on their way to attending Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and did proceed with their plan for the evening.
  • following that event, Napoleon III starts the process for the construction of a new opera house; for the first time in French history, an architectural contest will determine who will build the new Opera House (Charles Garnier will win it on May 31, 1861).
  • first French settlers in Cochinchine (South Viêtnam)


1962 Nino Sanzogno
Coro & Orchestra della RAI Roma

Géronte: Italo Tajo
Jacqueline: Miti Truccato Pace
Léandre: Eric Tappy
Lucas: Antonio Pietrini
Lucinde: Andrée Aubéry Lucchini
Martine: Luisella Ciaffi Ricagno
Sganarelle: Scipio Colombo
Valère: Paolo Montarsolo
E.J. Smith The Golden Age of Opera EJS 388 (1 LP live)

1972 Jean-Claude Hartemann
Orchestre Lyrique de l'ORTF

Jean-Christophe Benoit - Sganarelle
Michel Hamel - Léandre
Janine Capderou - Martine
Lina Dachary - Jacqueline
Monique Stiot - Lucinde
Jean-Louis Soumagnas - Géronte
Jean Martin - Valère
Joseph Peyron - Lucas
MRF; Gaieté Lyrique 202322 (1 CD)

Quizz musical sur Charles Gounod ici.


Mille et un opéras, Piotr Kaminski
Les opéras de Charles Gounod, Steven Huebner

Oct 21, 2007

Out and proud

I realize the average reader of this blog is either a gay man, a straight man or a straight woman. I'm not.

So allow me a little bit of proselytism.

Thanks to Vilaine Fille who relayed her friend Stephanie Schroeder's story on soprano Patricia Raquette and mezzo-soprano Beth Clayton.

True enough, I am not really interested in the sexuality of opera singers. Nevertheless, it's always good to know you have some friends in the biz.

Patricia Racette's future performances are here; Beth Clayton schedule is here (not updated) or there. More about the two in the article entitled Double aria.

Oct 20, 2007

[Les Pêcheurs de Perles] 2007-2008 performances

Upcoming performances of Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles;

  • Nov.3 - Nov.11, Kansas City, Lyric Opera

  • Leïla - Angela Turner Wilson
    Nadir - Brian Stucki
    Zurga - Troy Cook
    Nourabad - Rod Nelman

    Conductor - Marc Verzatt

    Complete introduction for the opera, including a synopsis, a few lines about Bizet and the French opera, and about the operas that feature men friendships here, in this pdf file very interesting indeed for those who know nothing about all of the above (or who simply want to refresh their knowledge).
    Audio extracts also available.

  • Nov.23, Melbourne, Australia, free concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl

  • Leïla - Hye Seoung Kwon
    Nadir - Jamie Allen
    Zurga - Michael Lewis
    Nourabad - Jud Arthur

    Conductor - Emmanuel Joel-Homak

  • Jan.26 - Feb.10 2008, Miami, Florida Grand Opera

  • Leïla - Maureen O’Flynn
    Nadir - William Burden
    Zurga - Lucas Meachem
    Nourabad - Burak Bilgili

    Conductor - Stewart Robertson

    Director - Andrew Sinclair
    Choreographer - John Malashock
    Set & Costume Designer - Zandra Rhodes
    Production of the San Diego Opera

  • March 7 & 11 2008, Saint-Etienne, France

  • Leïla - Xu Xiaoying
    Nadir - Chen Young
    Zurga - Yang Xiaoyong
    Nourabad - Zu Qi

    Direction - Zhang Guoyong

    Mise en scène - Jean-Louis Pichon
    Production Opéra de Shangaï / Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Etienne

  • March 18 - March 30, Trieste, Teatro Lirico "Giuseppe Verdi"

  • Leïla - Annick Massis / Virginia Wagner
    Nadir - Celso Albelo / Antonio Gandia
    Zurga - Pierre-Yves Pruvot
    Nourabad - Alessandro Svab

    Direttore - Frédéric Chaslin

    Regia - Fabio Sparvoli
    Also played in Udine, Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine on April 6, 2008

  • March 28 & 30 2008, Reims, France

  • Leïla - Xu Xiaoying
    Nadir - Chen Young
    Zurga - Yang Xiaoyong
    Nourabad - Zu Qi

    Direction - Zhang Guoyong

    Mise en scène - Jean-Louis Pichon
    Production Opéra de Shangaï / Opéra Théâtre de Saint-Etienne

  • May 3 - May 11 2008, San Diego Opera

  • Leïla - Ekaterina Siurina
    Nadir - Charles Castronovo
    Zurga - Malcolm McKenzie
    Nourabad - José Gallisa

    Conductor - Karen Keltner

    Director - Andrew Sinclair
    Choregrapher - J. Malashock
    Costume-Set designer - Zandra Rhodes

    Production already shown in New York and San Francisco

  • Sep.4 - Oct.11 2008, Sydney, Australia

  • Leïla - Leanne Kenneally
    Nadir - Henry Choo
    Zurga - Michael Lewis
    Nourabad - Shane Lowrencev

    Conductor (until Sept 25) - Emmanuel Joel-Hornak
    Conductor - Brian Castles-Onion

    Director - Ann M. Pettersson
    Set Designer - John Conklin
    Costume Designer - Claire Mitchell
    Choreographer - Rosetta Cook

Productions to come:

Las Palmas, with Juan Diego Florez in Nadir

Oct 19, 2007

Alagna / Aïda update

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The MET has just posted the mp3 file of Roberto Alagna singing "Celeste Aïda" on Oct.16.
Here it is ;

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

The Barbie soprano

All in all, I love that kind of British humour. I love the choice of Katherine Jenkins, I love the fact they commit to it, plus of course I love the fact they are Welsh as well. Can please someone create a http://weloveannanebrebko.blogspot.com ? It, too, would be hilarious.

Oct 17, 2007

Opera Geek

" If, as people say, the Internet is a paradise for geeks, it would logically work to the benefit of one of the most opulently geeky art forms in history. "

Alex Ross

The New Yorker, Oct.22, 2007
Extract from The well-tempered web

Oct 16, 2007

"Mistico raggio di luce e fior"

Mystical ray of light and flowers
aria "Celeste Aïda"

Dear New Yorkers,

Please accept all my condolences.

Due to yet other illnesses at the MET, Roberto Alagna will fill in tonight for Marco Berti as Ramadès in Verdi's Aïda, a role he has not sung since last December and his walk-off at La Scala.

Don't forget to bring radishes, tomatoes or really anything you can throw at him.
All out of love, of course.

Oct 14, 2007

Which is the best recent Maria Stuarda?

is the question I'm on since my last encounter with this Donizetti's opera (my biaised point of view, of course).

Here are the contenders:

1. 2007, Opéra de Lyon

Maria Stuarda: Ruth Ann Swenson
Elisabetta: Iano Tamar
Leicester: Dario Schmunck
Talbot: Giovanni Furlanetto
Conductor: Evelino Pidó
Choeurs et orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon

Broadcast on France Musique Oct.13, of the Sept.28th performance, available on request by mail.

Fantastic Talbot, average Leicester & Elisabetta, great Maria Stuarda.
Ruth Ann Swenson was almost booed in Paris for her shy high notes; since I've never been a fan of high notes anyway (too aggressive to my sensitive ears), I must admit I prefer the performance she gave this year rather than the one in New York in 2001, where, no doubt, her high notes were totally different.
Conducting good, with some moments of brilliance and some way too slow and heavy.

2. 2006, March 30, Roma
(photos of the production here, review in Italian here)

Maria Stuarda: Mariella Devia
Elisabetta: Enkelejda Shkosa
Leicester: Claudio Di Segni
Talbot: Enrico Turco
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Orchestra del Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

Bad Leicester, average Elisabetta and Talbot, disappointing Maria Stuarda (Devia definitelly not at her best here); horrific conducting; there's a difference between a dynamic rythm and rushing things up that Riccardo Frizza has no clue about whatsoever.
The tempi are dreadful and a disgrace to Donizetti's music.

Definitelly a version to forget.

3. 2005, April 2, Geneva
(review in French here and there, YouTube extract here and there [dress rehearsal])

Maria Stuarda: Gabriele Fontana
Elisabetta: Joyce DiDonato
Leicester: Eric Cutler
Talbot: Giovanni Furlanetto
Conductor: Evelino Pidó
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Choeurs du Grand Théâtre

Pidó conducts as he always does; no surprise here and no real differences from this year's performance in Lyon or the 1999 one in Parma.
Joyce DiDonato is a great Elisabetta; Eric Cutler is disappointing, switching back and forth from mediocre to good. Giovanni Furlanetto also doesn't live up to my expectations (especially since his performance in Lyon); Gabriele Fontana is also average.

4. 2003, November, Liceu, Barcelona
(review in spanish from Mundoclasico here, YouTube extract here and there)

Maria Stuarda: Edita Gruberova
Elisabetta: Sonia Ganassi
Leicester: Juan Diego Flórez
Talbot: Simon Orfila
Conductor: Friedrich Haider
(review in French here)

Fantastic JDF, good conducting.
I have a problem with the timbre of Edita Gruberova, so after a while, I find it painful to listen to her; Sonia Ganassi average and forgettable, so is the performance of Orfila.

5. 2001, May 13, Carnagie Hall, New York

(review of Anthony Tommasini from the New York Times here)

Maria Stuarda: Ruth Ann Swenson
Elisabetta: Lauren Flanigan
Leicester: Gregory Kunde
Talbot: Patrick Carfizzi
Conductor: Eve Queler
Opera Orchestra of New York
Opera Orchestra Chorus

Ruth Ann Swenson's voice at her prime, but her performance is too cold and monolithic; she definitelly lacks any kind of emotion.
Gregory Kunde is an unbearable Leicester, Patrick Carfizzi a less than average Talbot. Eve Queler's conducting is way to heavy and swampy (strange way to describe it, I know, but it really feels like all the musicians are stuck in a wet, low and spongy land).

The performance really falls flat.

6. 2001, October 5, Stockholm

Maria Stuarda: Lena Nordin
Elisabetta: Ingrid Tobiasson
Leicester: Joseph Calleja
Talbot: Anders Bergström
Conductor: Pier Giorgi Morandi
Royal Opera House Stockholm

A real surprise here; good conducting (with moments of greatness), good Elisabetta, good Talbot, good to great Maria Stuarda, suprisingly great Leicester: I don't like Joseph Calleja's timbre and way of singing, but it works great in the role of Leicester. Had Juan Diego Flórez not sung the role, he would be my top performer.

Definitelly a recording to keep.

7. 1999, March 18, Teatro Regio di Parma

Maria Stuarda: Giusy Devinu
Elisabetta: Enkelejda Shkosa
Leicester: Juan Diego Flórez
Talbot: Simone Alberghini
Conductor: Evelino Pidó

Great JDF, though I prefer the performance he gave in Barcelona in 2003, that has more nuances; good Maria Stuarda; forgettable Elisabetta; the Pidò conducting pretty much the same as always.

New productions still to come in 2008:
  • Milano, Scala, January 15, 18, 20, 22, 26, 30, February 3 & 7
    Beginning of sale: Nov.15

    Maria Stuarda: Mariella Devia
    Elisabetta: Anna Caterina Antonacci
    Leicester: Francesco Meli
    Talbot: Carlo Cigni
    Conductor: Antonino Fogliani

  • Liège, Théâtre Royal de Wallonie, April 30, May 3, 6, 8 & 11.

    Maria Stuarda: Patrizia Ciofi
    Elisabetta: Marianna Pizzolato
    Leicester: Danilo Formaggia
    Talbot: Federico Sacchi
    Conductor: Luciano Acocella

Productions I haven't been able to hear:
  • 2006, October, Berlin, Staatsoper Unter den Linden

    Maria Stuarda: Elena Mosuc
    Elisabetta: Katarina Karnéus
    Leicester: José Bros
    Talbot: Christof Fischesser
    Conductor: Alain Altinoglu

  • 2005, April, Caen (France), coproduction with Geneva

    Maria Stuarda: Gabriele Fontana
    Elisabetta: Marianna Kulikova
    Leicester: Eric Cutler
    Talbot: Giovanni Furlanetto
    Conductor: Nicolas Chalvin

  • 2003, January, Teatro Campoamor Oviedo
    (review in French here)

    Maria Stuarda : Ángeles Blancas
    Elisabetta: Judith Borrás
    Leicester: Joseph Calleja
    Talbot : Alberto Arrabal
    Conductor: Roberto Tolomelli

  • 2002, December, Opernhaus Zürich
    (press reviews in German here)

    Maria Stuarda: Angeles Blancas
    Elisabetta: Carmen Oprisanu
    Leicester: Fabio Sartori
    Talbot: László Polgár
    Conductor: Marcello Viotti
    Chor des Opernhauses Zürich
    Statistenverein am Opernhaus Zürich
    Orchester der Oper Zürich

  • 2002, January, Teatro Valli - Reggio Emilia
    (review in French here, in italian there)

    Maria Stuarda: Carmela Remigio
    Elisabetta: Sonia Ganassi
    Leicester: Joseph Calleja
    Talbot: Riccardo Zanellato
    Conductor: Francesco Maria Carminati
    Orchestra Stabile di Bergamo "G. Donizetti"
    Coro del Circuito Lirico Regionale della Lombardia
    Performance in Bologna recorded on CD

So, what's the chosen version?

    Best overall performance: Stockholm, 2001

    Best Maria Stuarda: Ruth Ann Swenson, Lyon, 2007
    Best Elisabetta: Joyce DiDonato, Geneva 2005
    Best Leicester: Juan Diego Flórez, Barcelona 2003

Oct 13, 2007

La Pietra del Paragone

"Non ricusi il mio favor."
[Atto 1, Scena Terza]

Je signale l'initiative intéressante de France 2 qui, en parallèle à la diffusion télé, met à disposition en streaming, sur internet et gratuitement un des premiers opéras de Rossini, la Pietra del Paragone, dans la production de janvier 2007 du théâtre du Châtelet (livret intégral de l'opéra disponible ici).

Le programme est divisé en deux parties, la première accessible depuis lundi dernier (1er acte), la seconde à partir de lundi prochain (acte 2). La qualité, tant sonore que visuelle, est excellente (diffusion du DVD livre paru chez Naïve).

Livret de Luigi Romanelli

Direction musicale: Jean-Christophe Spinosi
Ensemble MATHEUS
Choeurs du Teatro Regio di Parma

Conte Asdrubale: François Lis
Marchesina Clarice: Sonia Prina
Barconessa Aspasia: Jennifer Holloway
Donna Fulvia: Lauren Giordano
Pacuvio: Christian Senn
Giocondo: José Manuel Zapata
Fabrizio: Filipo Polinelli
Conte Macrobio: Joan Martin-Royo

M. en scène: Giorgio Barberio Corselti & Pierrick Sorin

Critique du Figaro ici, de Libération , de Classique News.

La mise en scène est... spéciale on va dire. Un ersatz de sketch de Mister Bean, qui ne me sied absolument pas.

La partition, jouée sur instruments d'époque, pleine de dorures châtoyantes et luxuriantes, ne se marie juste pas du tout avec les écrans plasma des années 2000 et une esthétique et des costumes des années 60.
Au contraire, je trouve que le contraste ne fait pas honneur à la musique de Rossini. Il la ringardise complètement.
Bref, je n'aime pas l'association des deux.

Au-delà de cela, cette production me ramène à la même sempiternelle interrogation: à quand remonte la dernière mise en scène potable, au Châtelet?


Sans compter évidemment la médiocrité des chanteurs.

Oct 12, 2007

Sempre libera

Paris, Oct.9, 2007 Rénovation de la station de métro Opéra

Oct 10, 2007

Scoop about Rolando Villazón !

I have it from his French entourage (rather reliable source) that his recent withdrawals are not indeed linked to his voice or any kind of depression, but to his wife. Turns out Rolando, happily married for many years with Lucia (he met her when he was 16), was faced with a family dilemna: staying home (Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris) to take care of his two sons Dario and Mateo or else ...

Oct 9, 2007

The voice of angels : JDF in Paris

Récital Salle Pleyel
Paris October 8, 2007
Juan Diego Flórez
Vincenzo Scola, piano

Mozart : air de concert “Misero ! O sogno, o son desto ?”

Bellini :
Quattro Sonetti (n°2) : La Ricordanza
Bianca e Fernando : “All’udir del padre afflito”

Rossini :
– Melodia L’orgia
Guglielmo Tell : Récitatif et aria, “O muto asil del pianto”
– Prélude pour piano seul
Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra : “Deh ! troncate”

Tosti : mélodies
- Ideale
- Seconda mattinata
- Quattre Canzoni d'Amaranta n°2: "L'alba sepàra dalla luce l'ombra"

Verdi : Rigoletto
– “Questa o quella”
– “Parmi veder le lagrime” – “La donna è mobile”
Bis :

– Verdi, Rigoletto, "Possente amor mi chiama"
– Amadeo Vives, "Doña Francisquita : Por el humo se sabe” (zarzuela)
– Maria Grever, “Júrame” (chanson sud-américaine)
– Donizetti, La Fille du régiment : “Ah ! mes amis, quel jour de fête !”

I cannot share with words an evening with Juan Diego Flórez.
He's the only living singer that provides me with a glimpse of eternity. A moment, out of time, when you forget everything and can't say for sure whether you're dreaming or fully awake.

An evening that ends with the most precious gift you couldn't dare to hope for, on the 4th and last bis, the aria he truly owns for years to come, "Ah mes amis!" and its slippery 9 high C's. All perfectly hit after more than an hour and a half of singing.

Back to Earth...

The program was an interesting mix of concert arias (Mozart, Bellini, Rossini) and opera extracts (Rossini, Bellini, Verdi) with the discovery of the melodies of Francesco Paolo Tosti, truly charming and in the tradition of napolitan songs. Superb performance of JDF singing Bellini's aria from Bianca e Fernando (from his lattest CD, Arias for Rubini) and Rossini's "L'orgia".
I'm sorry if my post lacks analysis and well, isn't remotely close to being a review of the concert, but JDF really leaves me speechless. I just adore him. This blog cannot, therefore, relay any criticism read or heard regarding his performance.

All pictures of JDF taken during the evening.

Oct 6, 2007

Nouvelle tête à Toulouse

Photo Eric Mahoudeau

Après le départ de Nicolas Joël vers des sphères plus nordiques en 2009 pour prendre la direction de l'Opéra de Paris, le théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse sera repris par Frédéric Chambert.


Une bio + une interview dans la Dépêche du Midi sont disponibles .
Si je résume: les seuls liens de Frédéric Chambert avec l'opéra sont qu'il est né à Aix-en-Provence et qu'il s'autoproclame grand passionné d'art lyrique.

Ah si, quand même: adjoint d'Hughes Gall de 1998 à 2004 comme directeur adjoint de l'Opéra de Paris.

Admettons qu'un bon adjoint fasse un bon directeur d'opéra.
Le fait que Chambert n'est pas artiste me pose un sérieux problème.
Quelques exemples malheureux? Peter Gelb au MET, Gérard Mortier à Paris...

Oct 5, 2007

An evening at home with Riccardo Muti

I got caught in it, once again. What started as a "let's watch opera for a few minutes, for a change", turned out to be a time-consumming, images-free activity. I chose the 1986 Bologna production of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, conducted by Riccardo Muti. As usual, I shifted the images to other, more interesting things after a few minutes; reading blogs about opera (this new one is just a pleasure to read), reading my mails, searching the web for pictures... I have real difficulties watching an opera on DVD, I don't know how people do it. Bores the hell out of me. Even Cavalleria Rusticana, an opera very dear to my heart. Plus, let's face it; I love the way Italians are playing the music and singing, but there's something about their stagings that is so desperatelly old-fashioned, static and unimaginative. This Bologna production is no different. I've never been that much interesting in the staging of operas anyway. That's why I prefer concert versions (so not in the mood of the time, I know). But, if I switched off the images, I just couldn't stop the sound. That's the Riccardo Muti effect. Always has been. Hopefully, always will be. I've already mentionned how I adore the maestro, and the choices he makes conducting are always hitting home for me. Lattest example, he's the reason why I just can't get enough of Gluck's Orfeo e Eurydice; I came across his performance at Il Maggio Musicale Fiorentino last May (by the way, the program for next year is online). Though I was not a big fan of Gluck, now I am. So I will not rest until I get why he seems to like Mozart that much. There's gotta be something, in that music I don't get. Once again, as in the Italian stagings, I can't get through the boring part.
My favorite part of Cavalleria Rusticana: "Voi dovrete fare"; MP3 here.
1986 Bologna production quick review:
  • Conductor: Riccardo Muti - amazing interpretation of Mascagni's score
  • Turiddu: Jose Cura - pretty good performance (not great though)
  • Santuzza: Waltraud Meier - below average, quite a disappointment indeed
  • Alfio: Paolo Gavanelli - ugly performance, unbearable vibrato
  • Lucia: Tiziana Tramonti - average

Oct 4, 2007

Monkey business

Initially, this blog is my way of remembering things.
Well, it turns out I still forget a lot of stuff.

Take Monkey: Journey to the West the first try of Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) at opera. I wrote about it six months ago, hoping I would remember to buy tickets for the opening of this season at Le Théâtre du Châtelet.

Of course I didn't remember anything.

So I can only read about it; here is an extract from Le Monde (in French, Oct.1): "A ce tourbillon s'ajoute un appareil musical confié à Albarn. Instruments traditionnels, claviers, cordes et vents, percussions. Sa partition, dans l'esprit des répétitifs américains n'est pas au niveau de l'inventivité du spectacle. Et lorsque elle devient pop on regrette qu'Albarn n'ait pas opté de bout en bout pour cette légèreté." ; here from the AFP (in English, Sept.26).

Now here's the thing; going to Paris this week-end and beginning of next week, will I remember to find the time to go in front of the house on Sunday afternoon to see if there are tickets still available (since the booking via internet is closed) ?

This answer, and probably many more next week...

Oct 3, 2007

Cello stories...

Opéra de Lyon, entracte de Maria Stuarda, 26 septembre 2006

Oct 1, 2007

Début de saison fantastique...

Je ne peux, amis lecteurs, que vous inciter à aller lire le compte-rendu de Mostly Opera sur le début de saison à l'opéra de Copenhague. C'est en anglais, je sais, mais faites un effort, c'est vraiment hilarant et surréaliste. Ce n'est pas en France qu'on aurait osé un tour pareil.
Ajout à 23h, toujours aussi hallucinée:
Je ne peux résister, non vraiment je ne le peux, à retranscrire ici une partie de cette histoire extraordinaire:
" Just before curtain-up, Kasper Bech Holten (General Director) appeared in front of the curtain with the following statement: That Johnny Van Hal singing Hoffmann unfortunately was ill, and the cover Nikolai Schukoff was available for all other evenings....except this one - that after phoning all over Europe, a tenor was found in Berlin capable of singing the role (Timothy Richards) and all was well....but then Scandinavian Airlines cancelled all flights from Berlin to Copenhagen.... however in the last minute he got on another plane and arrived in time for the production, but... it appeared that the version of Hoffmann he could sing was not the one used in Copenhagen, despite repeated promises from this agent......so (and hold on here..): Some of the part he could sing in French, some of it he could only sing in German... And some of it he couldn´t sing at all.... - and these parts would therefore be sung by the conductor Marc Soustrot!! Johnny Van Hal would be acting the part and Timothy Richards would be singing from the pit."

Fuck Les Chorégies d'Orange


We have two decent Lyric Summer Festivals in France.

Aix-en-Provence for starters, for lovers of operas I can't stand: Monteverdi, Mozart, Wagner...
Therefore I really don't care that they have a fantastic new concert hall, or about the quality of casts and directors they choose.

So I'm left with Les Chorégies d'Orange.
Stuck, I should say.

OK, the operas they play (two each year) are obviously chosen to seduce mass audiences; Gounod's Faust and Carmen for 2008, Il Trovatore and Puccini's Butterfly this summer; Aïda and Lucia di Lammermoor in 2006 (complete list here).
It's mainstream opera all the way, but that's ok 'cause I'm into Verdi, Gounod, Donizetti...

But enough is enough.

They need to upgrade.

Aïda, 2006, © Grand Angle Orange

The stage direction is as bad as can be expected when there's no stage direction.
The sets are non-existant so the stage is just desperately empty (thank God for the Romans by the way, or else there wouldn't even be a stage).

The costumes are way too conventional and boring.

And then, of course, the conductor chosen each year is either the one that couldn't understand the score any worse or Michel Plasson (not much better).

Let's not forget about the chorus.
Historically, the chorus is made of various chorus from around the country, assembled into a reasonable size chorus for the huge Roman theater they sing in. That's roughly 50 men and 50 women.

Please forget about history.
Some things have to change.
The chorus has to go.
For a professionnal one.

No offense to Avignon, Toulon, Metz or any other remote city they come from.
But with a group of second class singers, chances are when you assemble them together they will suck.
Well, they do.
A lot.

Aïda, 2006, © Grand Angle Orange

And finally the cast.
Can we please stop with Roberto Alagna?

He's there every single year (2007 for Manrico in Il Trovatore, 2006 for Ramadès in Aïda, 2005 for La Bohème, 2004 for Carmen...).
I get it that he's the only opera singer French people care about (especially since his shitty tribute album to Luis Mariano). But he's just the ghost of the great tenor he used to be.
And you know what? I don't pitty him a bit.
He should have worked instead of going to every single bullshit TV program he was invited to, destroying all kinds of songs (examples on YouTube here and there).
Plus, I don't forgive him for the Scala incident. This guy has no respect whatsoever for the public, he's way too egomaniac.

I might sound harsh, but seriously people.
Les Chorégies d'Orange suck.

For a budget of about €450.000 for two productions each year, we should have other singers than Alagna, a world-class conductor, a decent chorus and a spectacular staging.

We have none of that.
The French system really sucks, sometimes.

Further readings:
Photos of the past productions here, history of the festival here (also in English here).

YouTube extracts (please enjoy the costumes, stage direction and the work of the conductor):