Mar 25, 2009

Dorny's version of a HD broadcast

So this is what Serge Dorny, the GM of the Opera de Lyon had in mind a few months ago about La Traviata: an outdoor broadcast in the esplanade of Fourvière (part of the Summer Festival "Les Nuits de Fourvière").

It will be free so I can't really criticize the effort, but a live broadcast would have added somehow a thrill to it. And I'm not sure a lot of people will attend a broadcast that starts at midnight...

La Traviata en différé de l'Opéra de Lyon July 3 2009, midnight

Mar 24, 2009

Pasqua [Hors sujet]


Si versate lacrime 
Angeli mesti in cielo 
Vesti di lutto velo 
L'amato ben morì. 

Morì per man dei barbari 
Morì trafitto in croce 
Soffrì la pena atroce 
Il Redentor spirò 
Morì spirò morì spirò 
Morì spirò il Redentor 
Morì spirò. 

Morì morì morì 
Morì spirò il Redentor 
Il Redentor spirò.

Mar 22, 2009

Sonnambula, Met HD

Met HD Simulcast
March 21, 2009
Pathé Vaise

Amina - Natalie Dessay
Elvino- Juan Diego Flòrez
Rodolfo - Michele Pertusi
Lisa - Jennifer Black

Conductor - Evelino Pidò
Director - Mary Zimmerman

Let's not waste any time on Mary Zimmerman's production: it's a total failure. In every aspect of it. On every level.
In a sense, she made it quite mandatory to focus on the music and the singers, which is actually pretty fine with me with this particular piece.

I've said it before, and I haven't changed my mind, I like Pidò's reading of the score, and the Met orchestra did a spectacular job to carry it through. I was pretty impressed by the four major roles; Jennifer Black was a delight to watch and listen to, and Michele Pertusi and Natalie Dessay were superb.

I'm sorry to say however that I only had eyes and ears for Juan Diego Flòrez.
Here he was, as perfect as I had hoped he would be. The first act reached a whole different level when he finally appeared onstage, and he already had left me extatic at the intermission (he did deliver an exquisite "Prendi: l'anel ti dono").
But his "perche non posso odiarti" and especially his five "infedel" overwhelmed me so vividly I couldn't really concentrate after that on anything but his lines.

Even Dessay's "ah non credea... ah! non giunge" couldn't really move me... until his two lines "Io più non reggo, a tanto duolo" that prompted yet another burst of tears. All that via a Met HD simulcast.

All photographs Ken Howard for the Metropolitan Opera.

About this Sonnambula's production at the Met:
- "Can't quite let it go yet", Maury D'Annato, My Favorite Intermissions
- "The Blunder" ; "The fallen idol", An Umamplified Voice

Mar 18, 2009

Pretty please

June 2008, Photograph Russel Daniels

Damnation de Faust, Met 2008

Hector Berlioz  
légende dramatique en quatre parties
livret Hector Berlioz et Almire Gandonnière

Faust - Marcello Giordani
Marguerite - Susan Graham
Méphistophélès - John Relyea
Brander - Patrick Carfizzi

Conductor: James Levine
Production: Robert Lepage
Metropolitan Opera House
November 22, 2008 Matinee broadcast

The more I listen to Berlioz, the more convinced I am that his music is indeed unique. There's an overwhelming atmosphere to it, that I would compare to Schubert's. Muti's interpretation of Episodes de la vie d'un artiste in Paris certainly unlocked new doors. Berlioz is so much more than one of those XIXth-century French composers.

The production

Robert's Lepage's production at the Met is, in my opinion, a beautiful one. It suits Berlioz's score brilliantly and is very cohesive overall, quite an accomplishment considering the piece. It also does capture pretty well the spirit of the XIXth-century Paris atmosphere Berlioz lived in. By all means, Lepage's production was really the key to immerse myself into Berlioz's music.

The music

On the other hand, I was disappointed by James Levine's performance. His conduction was too fast and not vivid enough for me. Krivine's performance last June was on such a different level.
The whole musical performance really comes to the way "Ange adoré" and the duet with Marguerite following Faust's aria (Part 2) is handled - or not handled, rather. Marcello Giordani's high notes were so hideous (they were horrendous all evening long) he sounded more like a yorshire barking, and Levine just left him to his misery. He could have had the orchestra help, for instance.

The only true shining moment came with "D'amour l'ardente flamme". For once, the orchestra and the singer were actually sharing something. Susan Graham was overall an interesting Marguerite, though she had trouble coping with her breath on that particular aria. John Relyea was a very good Méphistophélès.

All photographs Ken Howard for the Metropolitan Opera.

Mar 10, 2009

[Hysterical mode]

Can someone please tell me why the ticket sales for Demofoonte, that were supposed to open yesterday on the Paris Opera website still aren't available? It's getting utterly frustrating. Sans déconner, putain...

Mar 9, 2009

Opera wars

Isn't it fascinating to realize some XIXth century practices still go on in major Opera Houses?

The example of the intense competition currently going on in Paris is reported in "Clause d’exclusivité : Favart tacle Garnier et Bastille", an article published on Qobuz (a site ran by Abeille Musique).

Nicolas Joël, soon to be the director of the Opéra National de Paris (that includes both Bastille and Garnier), is apparently reviving the exclusivity clause when signing his cast.

The Opéra Comique, the third lyrical theater in Paris, and struggling to survive, is complaining of such unfair customs, in the voice of its director, Jérome Deschamps.

There's something incredibly wrong in Joël's justification though. "If they do in in NY, why can't we?" Well, because we're French maybe? And should care more about the Art than about the money?

Mar 8, 2009

Back in time

Rénovation de l'Opéra de Lyon d'après les plans de Jean Nouvel (1993).

Mar 5, 2009

Muti broadcast

Rai Radio Tre will broadcast live Iphigénie en Aulide from Il Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, on March 17 (8:30pm Paris time), conducted by Riccardo Muti.

De toute beauté

If some of you haven't noticed it yet, I added in the right column, the delicious links I keep about interesting things to read.

Everyone should for instance go and read Maury d'Annato's latest post, "Can't quite let it go yet". There's nothing more appealing to me than feeling the love of someone for the quintessential element of the Opera: the Music. "I've just never found the music sufficiently wonderful to transport me to that land of suspended disbelief we ideally inhabit in the opera house when we need to." Aren't we all longing for that?

Mar 4, 2009

Leïla en Pologne

[basically my summary of the opera, after Leïla, the female role of Les Pêcheurs de Perles]  

Le Roi Malgré Lui

Opéra comique en 3 actes d'Emmanuel Chabrier (1887)
Livret d'Emile de Najac et Paul Burani
Revival of the 2005 production of Laurent Pelly and Agathe Mélinand

Henri de Valois, roi de Pologne - Jean-Sébastien Bou
Minka - Magali Léger
Le Duc de Fritelli - Franck Leguérinel
Alexina, Duchesse de Fritelli - Sophie Marin-Degor
Le Comte de Nangis - Gordon Gietz
Laski, grand palatin - Nabil Suliman

Conduction - Claire Levacher
Orchestra and chorus of the Opéra de Lyon
March 3 2009 

© Gérard Ansellem

The piece

You know you're not headed for a masterpiece when you realize how the music of Le Roi Malgré Lui, which premiered in 1887, sounds awfully like operas composed 50 years before it. Still, as I like French operas from that time, I found some qualities to the score, although one could only think about Auber, Thomas or even Gounod quite a few times.

This comic opera sure doesn't carry with it a special aura of originality, but the score is overall well-balanced and easy to follow. Of course there's no emotional dimension ever, but that's not the purpose anyway. The libretto is not very smart either, and the storyline is also typical of the XIXth century: a silly situation, royalty, a conspiracy, a loving slave and a happy ending. Basically your average love-story movie right from Hollywood, 21st century.

This is the tale of a French duke that is appointed king of Poland and hates his new country. He wants to leave, as do most of the Polish court and his Italian chambellan Fritteli. Add to that the necessary orientalism for the time in the face of the slave Minka, a love triangle between the King, Fritteli and his wife, a chorus whose sole goal was to please La Censure, "Par l'Evangile et Notre-Dame" (Acte 2 scène 9) and other forgettable and complicated ideas.

Henri de Valois, ©Opéra de Lyon

The music

One (and by one, I mean me) realizes even more how extatic Riccardo Muti's concert was when one goes back to the Opéra de Lyon for a comic opera. Apparently, the frivolous libretto allows for frivolous behavior from the audience as well. I was dying for some quiet, especially during the introductions of each act, but the religious atmosphere of the TCE couldn't have been further than my fellow Lyonnais' proclivities.

The reason for my deep interest in the orchestra was Claire Levacher, the unknown assistant conductor who had to step in when scheduled Carlo Franci cancelled for the whole run. She's evidently not Leonard Bernstein, but she showed some real talent last night. The opening chorus of Act 2 was a beauty, as were many other parts of the score. Overall, she can improve on the emotional side (though obviously, conducting a comic opera doesn't help), and focus more on the strings. I honestly didn't expect at all such a good work.

Hopefully she'll be given the opportunity to conduct again in this house. This sure would be an excellent idea.

The overall quality of the cast was excellent, both singing and acting. On the negative side, Sophie Marin-Degor as Fritteli's wife made a very poor impression on me, both with her acting and her singing. Other that that, this was really fun and vocally harmonious to follow.
Franck Leguérinel was the star of the evening for me. His timbre is beautiful and his singing is very vibrant and honest; his acting skills are pretty good also.

Minka, ©Opéra de Lyon

The staging

This is probably the best production I've seen from Laurent Pelly.

First of all, it's very funny, and doesn't really fall to the ridiculous side Pelly often slides into. It may sometimes be a bit over the top, especially the way he handles the singers' moves (nobody is ever walking, they're all rushing as if the House was on fire or something).

But, contrary to my recurrent critics about Pelly's sets, these ones are actually beautiful, as are the costumes. This gives a unity to this production that really allows to focus more on the story and the numerous hilarious tricks Pelly added to the action (most of them being a smart illustration of the lack of interest of the libretto). A very interesting revival indeed.

The Frittelis, ©Opéra de Lyon


Mar 1, 2009

The 10 operas I can't live without

(by alphabetical order of the composer)
  • Vincenzo Bellini - Norma
  • V. Bellini - La Sonnambula
  • Georges Bizet - Les Pêcheurs de Perles
  • Philip Glass - Satyagraha
  • Charles Gounod - Faust
  • Pietro Mascagni - Cavalleria Rusticana
  • Giuseppe Verdi - Attila
  • G. Verdi - Don Carlos (fr) / Don Carlo (it)
  • G. Verdi - Rigoletto
  • G. Verdi - Il Trovatore