Feb 27, 2009

Hail to the chief: Muti in Paris





Attending a concert conducted by Riccardo Muti is my version of church-going, and it seems that feeling was shared by the whole audience of the TCE this Thursday night.

The silence in the auditorium was astonishing, as we couldn't bear for any noise to disrupt the interpretation of Il Maestro (the funny consequence of that was, in the second half of the concert, that people were coughing when Depardieu was speaking, which everybody seemed to agree was the most appropriate time, that is, anytime but when the music was playing).

The critics of Muti may argue (and they usually do) that he's not really transcendent in slow and emotional pieces.
To all those skeptics, Muti answered with a magnificent interpretation of both the first and the third parts of La Symphonie Fantastique. His approach of the whole piece is yet another of those defining moments for me, as it was for everybody in the room this evening.

Although the end of the Symphonie Fantastique didn't mean the end of the concert but only the beginning of the intermission, cheers and applause were huge, as nobody wanted to leave and have a drink until Muti fully got how extatic his reading truly felt to us.



The second part, Lélio ou le retour à la vie, during which the orchestra was hidden behind a translucid curtain (dreams of Lélio) while Depardieu (Lélio) was alone in front of the stage (Lélio's reality) was exquisite on so many levels.


The last scene, inspired by Shakespeare's Tempest was, all 15 minutes or so of it, in itself worth the trip to Paris. Muti showcased there what he does best: giving life to the music and the orchestra, especially the strings, which he mastered throughout the entire concert (the restraint he demanded from the violins in the Symphonie Fantastique was simply glorious).


The aria of Ludovic Tézier was also memorable, and it's the first time he actually made a favorable impression on me - ever (I suspect either an intense coaching by Muti or some real and hopefully sustainable progress).

Marc Laho had less of an impact, but obviously it's harder to shine when surrounded by such talent, including a phenomenal performance of the chorus (truly the first time I hear such quality in Paris, and at this point it seems appropriate to praise chorus master Matthias Brauer).

Gérard Depardieu, whose "acting" skills I despise, as well as the human being ("un voyou" as my neighbor put it quite accurately when the concert was about to start) has obviously strong affinities with Berlioz (as proven by the recording he made alongside Alagna in a CD of Berlioz's extracts - see there).
He was fascinated (but weren't we all?) by the way Muti played that music - and clearly had the best view available in the house. His reading was unequal though, as I suspect he was drunk as usual (he admitted in a recent interview with Télérama of such practices). Quite a few words were misspelled, and his inflammatory lines were way over the top.
On the other hand, many others (especially the whispered ones) were perfect in context.


The Orchestre National de France played with brio after a bit of a mess with the woodwind section in the first few minutes, and overall delivered a performance worthy of Muti's conduction.

Obviously the real star of the evening was Riccardo Muti and that feeling was undoubtedly shared by all of us, fortunate enough to be there. Next stop in Paris: Jommelli's Demofoonte with his youth orchestra Luigi Cherubini at the Palais Garnier next June. 





Further readings:
"La Fantastique de Muti est donc résolument fantasmatique. Traversée de visions délirantes telles qu'en provoquent les vapeurs d'opium dont le jeune homme du récit s'est empoisonné. Finesse arachnéenne du "Bal" et son rêve de valse, fantaisie chambriste de la "Scène aux champs", et la "Marche au supplice" jouée comme en apesanteur avant le cauchemar final du "Songe d'une nuit de Sabbat" : pour tout cela, ovation méritée. [...] Derrière le rideau, Muti sera de bout en bout aussi admirable qu'en lui-même. Il plongera le "Choeur d'Ombres" dans les moires chatoyantes d'une "nuit de la mort" aux sonorités hallucinantes, festoiera de cuivres la "Chanson de brigands" comme il convient, chantera la brise mordorée de la "Harpe éolienne" avant les fastes de la grande "Fantaisie sur La Tempête de Shakespeare"."
"La situation a quelque chose d'improbable. Dans une loge du Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, on retrouve Riccardo Muti égal à lui-même (...) le maestro frappe toujours par l'élégance de sa mise, le regard perçant, un mélange d'extraversion latine et de rigueur germanique qui pourrait le faire paraître pète-sec s'il n'était si courtois.
Puis un fracas : la porte, fermée de l'intérieur, menace d'être enfoncée sous les assauts d'un bélier. Gérard Depardieu arrive, pléthorique, pantagruélique, intarissable, serre dans ses bras jusqu'à l'étouffer le chef devenu un roseau battu par les vents d'une tempête shakespearienne. (...) L'instinctif excessif et le maître de la rigueur classique s'aiment. Mariage de la carpe et du lapin?

Muti fait remarquer que, dans son chant d'amour, Berlioz commence par la voix parlée, puis la voix chantée, avant de conclure par une clarinette entrecoupée de silences, nous emmenant plus loin à ­chaque fois.

(...) Lorsque Muti évoque la manière mystérieuse dont le chef d'orchestre transmet ses idées musicales à l'orchestre et crée sa sonorité, Depardieu est confondu d'admiration : «Un acteur est une merde à côté. L'acteur pèse, il est lourd, il n'est intéressant que transcendé par autre chose. Le chef donne sa connaissance sans peser, il élève les autres et les rend meilleurs. Quand je joue, je regarde Riccardo et il m'inspire par le regard, l'énergie, l'écoute.»

(...) La musique est centrale pour Depardieu mais il en écoute peu, tout simplement parce que l'émotion qu'elle lui procure est trop forte, trop électrique. Et s'il admire tant un chef comme ­Riccardo Muti, c'est pour l'art avec lequel il met de l'ordre dans la passion : «Il fait entendre le vertige de ce que peut être la folie sans pour autant tomber dedans.»"

Permalink: - Bravo Muti, il-figlio-del-sud.cocolog-nifty.com, Japan

3 comments:

delpippo said...

Thank you very much for the beautiful photos.
I am so glad to read your enthusiastic comments about Maestro Muti's splendid performance.

Paris really seems to be Maestro Muti's another home.

Extatic said...

Hopefully he won't forget it when he moves to Chicago...

Maria said...

http://maggiofiorentino.blogspot.com/2010/03/novita-in-libreria-un-volume-sugli-anni.html

By Maria,
Athens.