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29 Dec 2004

Moskva, Cheryomushki at Lyon

Moskva, Cheryomushki, Opéra de Lyon, France By Francis Carlin Published: December 29 2004 02:00 | Last updated: December 29 2004 02:00 Wanted: a warm-up guy for chronically frigid audience. The first-nighters sat on their hands throughout Shostakovitch's easy-listening operetta (1959),...

Moskva, Cheryomushki, Opéra de Lyon, France

By Francis Carlin
Published: December 29 2004 02:00 | Last updated: December 29 2004 02:00

Wanted: a warm-up guy for chronically frigid audience. The first-nighters sat on their hands throughout Shostakovitch's easy-listening operetta (1959), about a social migration to a new council development in Moscow, the Cherry Trees estate. Then, bizarrely, they gave the cast a rousing ovation at curtain call.

But the damage had been done. Macha Makeeff and Jérome Deschamps threw in their trademark extra actors to get the laughs with formulas that leave me cold but generally work with the French, and all we got was a crushing silence. Ditto for the few catchy solos and choruses that come back rather too often in a score that trades down in an effort to please.

It is an original Christmas offering that ends up being a near miss.

Arguably, the renowned reserve of the Lyonnais was compounded by a hybrid presentation that had the songs in Russian and the spoken dialogues in French. There is, too, a natural mistrust of a piece that reflects the post-Stalinist thaw by tackling bureaucratic corruption but still exalts the socialist dream. A more corrosive, subversive rewriting of the dialogues might have set this simplistic propaganda in a more viable context for sceptical, non-Russian audiences. The production is far too polite with its satire.

[Click here for remainder of review (subscription to Financial Times online required).]

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