Sep 29, 2009

Conduct like Dudamel

For the beginning of Gustavo Dudamel as Music Director (opening concert on Oct.8), the LA Philharmonic has come up with a little game (also available on your iPhone) they should have untitled "So you think you can conduct".

Sep 28, 2009

Fastes du XIXe siècle

Grand Hall de l'Opéra Garnier Paris Sept.22, 2009

Sep 26, 2009

Mireille ressucitée


Opéra en 5 actes de Charles Gounod
Livret de Michel Carré d'après Frédéric Mistral
Créé au Théâtre Lyrique le 19 mars 1864
Entrée au répertoire de l'Opéra de Paris, 14 septembre 2009

Mireille - Inva Mula
Vincent - Charles Castronovo
Ourrias - Franck Ferrari
Ramon - Alain Vernhes
Taven - Sylvie Brunet
Vincenette - Anne-Catherine Gillet
Andrelou - Sebastien Droy
Ambroise - Nicolas Cavallier
Clemence - Amel Brahim-Djelloul
Le Passeur - Ugo Rabec

Orchestre et choeurs de l'Opéra de Paris
Conduction - Marc Minkowski
Stage direction - Nicolas Joël

Opéra Garnier Sept.22 performance - gala AROP

There were certainly some in Paris to boo Nicolas Joël's new production (only on the premiere it seems, as in NY). Nobody followed through in the performance I attended though, not even me, though his lack of ideas and actors direction is the only thing one can think of after seeing his production.

But Joël's decision to start his 5-yr contract as director of the Paris Opera by staging this particular piece is so commendable - and Minkowski's conduction is so exquisite one can only thank the man. Finally, after too many years of drought, Gounod is back in Paris. Adios Gérard Mortier...

I can't emphasize enough how extatic I felt when the first notes of the overture emerged and how exquisite the musical execution was. Finally, after too many years of bad treatment - including Plasson's massacre last year in Orange, Gounod's music is fully rehabilitated.

Who can, after hearing this performance, honestly say Gounod is boring and emotionless? It took Mark Minkowski - a baroque's conductor - to unravel all the marvels of Mireille's score.
I had truly never heard this opera played so brilliantly - a magnificent interpretation indeed (why he was also booed on the premiere is beyond comprehension).

And so does it really matter that Joël's staging is unattractive and quite dumb and so desperately true to the libretto ? Not for me.

Beginning of Act I

The piece

Gounod wanted to adapt provensal poet Frédéric Mistral's novel for the lyric stage (he actually composed most of the music while staying in the very places Mistral's story takes place in), but had to adapt to so many demands he ultimately delivered a piece quite different from his original idea.
 The huge pressure he got all his life from opera directors and prima donna meant he constantly had to make concessions and give way.

For Mireille, Marie Miolan-Carvalho - wife of the Théâtre Lyrique's director and the soprano who would create the role - told Gounod "Surtout, n'est-ce pas, faites brillant, très brillant, brillant" [Make it shiny, shiny, shiny], so he had to cut most of the dramatic scenes and add light and joyful arias for Mireille.

The score was cut and rewritten again and again after the premiere, and some arias of the original score were lost during the fire of the Opera House.

The version performed in Paris is the one Reynaldo Hahn assembled in 1939 - the closest to the original version.

More on this opera:
- Synopsis - in French

Alain Vernhes and Inva Mula

The performance

Apart from the marvellous job Marc Minkowski did, the orchestra had a great night as well.
The strings were superb, as were the woods and the brass.

The energy coming from the pit was mind-blowing, but the chorus of the Paris Opera did not deliver nearly as good a performance as the musicians did. The change of the chorus master hasn't succeeded in improving the quality of the ensemble - their unison is always somehow off and terribly unstable.

The soloist singers on the other hand were overall interesting - and Charles Castronovo, with his dark yet juvenile timbre made a good impression on me as Vincent.

I was also impressed by Alain Vernhes' Ramon, a rich and colorful voice very expressive, and Anne-Catherine Gillet's Vincenette.

The weakest main character was Franck Ferrari's Ourrias. The acting was vaudeville-esque and pretentious(and I hate vaudeville at the opera), while the singing was mediocre and not really up to the overall level.

Inva Mula's French is not really understandable for anybody, but her singing was decent enough not to ruin Minkowski's view of Mireille.

Overall a great evening for me.

Further reading 
- Mireille au palais Garnier,  Formalhaut
- Oh Mireille, même à Garnier, tu ne vieillis pas

Sep 23, 2009

Prendre de la hauteur

Plafond de l'opéra Garnier, peint par Marc Chagall Paris, Sept.22, 2009

Sep 16, 2009

[Mireille review]

Before anyone asks, I will be attending the Sept.22 performance of Gounod's Mireille at the Paris Opera (Garnier). Obviously no review until then...

Sep 15, 2009

Orange 2010

Just received the program for the Chorégies d'Orange next summer (website not updated yet):

Sep 14, 2009

Fast fact about Mireille

Gounod's Mireille, opening tonight at the Paris Opera, is performed in its 1939 version - the one rediscovered and imposed by Reynaldo Hahn. Fascinating how this very name keeps popping up in my world regularly.

Sep 3, 2009

Guth's Nozze di Figaro - Salzburg 2006

Le Nozze di Figaro

Stage direction : Claus Guth
Dramaturgy: Ronnie Dietrich
Stage and costume design: Christian Schmidt
Choreography: Ramsès Sigl
2006 Salzburg Festival DVD Deutsche Gramophon

The talent of Claus Guth lies in his fantastic ability to add depth and darkness to an otherwise very silly vaudeville-esque plot. Each character is given more layers than the libretto states, from the most obvious (Figaro or Il Conte) to the most unexpected ones (Cherubino for instance). Not only that, but Guth creates a very cohesive and clear, yet infinitely personal and detailed vision of Le Nozze.

The dramaturgy of Ronny Dietrich is very logic to start with, but Guth takes it to a higher level with numerous thoughtful details, either poetic - the feathers falling from the sky when Figaro cuts Cherubino's hair (first portayed in the introduction as the angel puppeteer with small feathered wings) in Act 1 "Non più andrai, farfallone amoroso", or funny - the entrance of Il Conte threatening his wife with an axe in Act 2 "Tutto è come il lasciai" recitativo for instance.

Furthermore, Guth is brilliant at dealing with trios. He creates a unique and colorful synergy between the three characters all the time, that transcends Da Ponte's words, adding codes to structure his whole concept - such as the recurring posture of the two dominant characters surrounding left and right the weakest one.

Guth's general idea is that the characters' lives are intertwined even closer than what the libretto suggests, and that everyone is the puppet of Destiny - the Cherubino-twin angel in his vision. Each apparition of the Destiny - even when the little angel throws himself out the window or comes in on an unicycle - is very relevant and true to the concept, often even poetic.

You are drown to this production, overall even more accomplished and mesmorizing than his hynotizing Don Giovanni for the 2008 Salzburg Festival. It's such a joy to be able to see such a successful production, such a rare feeling for me - and I should know, I neither like Mozart nor Netrebko and I still bought the DVD.