Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Eugene Onegin at Seattle

Passion! Pain! Poetry! (but hold the irony . . .)

Pow! Zap! Zowie! Wowie! -or- Arthur, King of Long Beach

If you might have thought a late 17thcentury semi-opera about a somewhat precious fairy tale monarch might not be your cup of twee, Long Beach Opera cogently challenges you to think again.

Philippe Jaroussky and Jérôme Ducros perform Schubert at Wigmore Hall

How do you like your Schubert? Let me count the ways …

Crebassa and Say: Impressionism and Power at Wigmore Hall

On paper this seemed a fascinating recital, but as I was traveling to the Wigmore Hall it occurred to me this might be a clash of two great artists. Both Marianne Crebassa and Fazil Say can be mercurial performers and both can bring such unique creativity to what they do one thought they might simply diverge. In the event, what happened was quite remarkable.

'Songs of Longing and Exile': Stile Antico at LSO St Luke's

Baroque at the Edge describes itself as the ‘no rules’ Baroque festival. It invites ‘leading musicians from all backgrounds to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them’.

Richard Jones' La bohème returns to Covent Garden

Richard Jones' production of Puccini's La bohème is back at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden after its debut in 2017/18. The opening night, 10th January 2020, featured the first of two casts though soprano Sonya Yoncheva, who was due to sing Mimì, had to drop out owing to illness, and was replaced at short notice by Simona Mihai who had sung the role in the original run and is due to sing Musetta later in this run.

Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Mozart’s Don Giovanni returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in the Robert Falls updating of the opera to the 1930s. The universality of Mozart’s score proves its adaptability to manifold settings, and this production featured several outstanding, individual performances.

Britten and Dowland: lutes, losses and laments at Wigmore Hall

'Of chord and cassiawood is the lute compounded;/ Within it lie ancient melodies'.

Tara Erraught sings Loewe, Mahler and Hamilton Harty at Wigmore Hall

During those ‘in-between’ days following Christmas and before New Year, the capital’s cultural institutions continue to offer fare both festive and more formal.

Prayer of the Heart: Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet

Robust carol-singing, reindeer-related muzak tinkling through department stores, and light-hearted festive-fare offered by the nation’s choral societies may dominate the musical agenda during the month of December, but at Kings Place on Friday evening Gesualdo Six and the Brodsky Quartet eschewed babes-in-mangers and ding-donging carillons for an altogether more sedate and spiritual ninety minutes of reflection and ‘musical prayer’.

The New Season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

Professional opera in Japan is roughly a century old. When the Italian director and choreographer Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-1940) mounted a production of Cavalleria Rusticana in Italian in Tokyo in 1917, with Japanese singers, he brought a period of timid experimentation and occasional student performances to an end.

Handel's Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall

For those of us who live in a metropolitan bubble, where performances of Handel's Messiah by small professional ensembles are common, it is easy to forget that for many people, Handel's masterpiece remains a large-scale choral work. My own experiences of Messiah include singing the work in a choir of 150 at the Royal Albert Hall, and the venue's tradition of performing the work annually dates back to the 19th century.

What to Make of Tosca at La Scala

La Scala’s season opened last week with Tosca. This was perhaps the preeminent event in Italian cultural and social life: paparazzi swarmed politicians, industrialists, celebrities and personalities, while almost three million Italians watched a live broadcast on RAI 1. Milan was still buzzing nine days later, when I attended the third performance of the run.

La traviata at Covent Garden: Bassenz’s triumphant Violetta in Eyre’s timeless production

There is a very good reason why Covent Garden has stuck with Richard Eyre’s 25-year old production of La traviata. Like Zeffirelli’s Tosca, it comes across as timeless whilst being precisely of its time; a quarter of a century has hardly faded its allure, nor dented its narrative clarity. All it really needs is a Violetta to sweep us off our feet, and that we got with Hrachuhi Bassenz.

'Aspects of Love': Jakub Józef Orliński at Wigmore Hall

Boretti, Predieri, Conti, Matteis, Orlandini, Mattheson: masters of the Baroque? Yes, if this recital by Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński is anything by which to judge.

Otello at Covent Garden: superb singing defies Warner’s uneven production

I have seen productions of Verdi’s Otello which have been revolutionary, even subversive. I have now seen one which is the complete antithesis of that.

Solomon’s Knot: Charpentier - A Christmas Oratorio

When Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned from Rome to Paris in 1669 or 1670, he found a musical culture in his native city that was beginning to reject the Italian style, which he had spent several years studying with the Jesuit composer Giacomo Carissimi, in favour of a new national style of music.

A Baroque Odyssey: 40 Years of Les Arts Florissants

In 1979, the Franco-American harpsichordist and conductor, William Christie, founded an early music ensemble, naming it Les Arts Florissants, after a short opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Miracle on Ninth Avenue

Gian Carlo Menotti’s holiday classic, Amahl and the Night Visitors, was the first recorded opera I ever heard. Each Christmas Eve, while decorating the tree, our family sang along with the (still unmatched) original cast version. We knew the recording by heart, right down to the nicks in the LP. Ever since, no matter what the setting or the quality of a performance, I cannot get through it without tearing up.

Detlev Glanert: Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (UK premiere)

It is perhaps not surprising that the Hamburg-born composer Detlev Glanert should count Hans Werner Henze as one of the formative influences on his work - he did, after all, study with him between 1984 to 1988.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anna Prohaska (Phani/Fatime), François Lis (Huascar/ Don Alvaro)
28 Jul 2016

A dance to life in Munich’s Indes galantes

Can one justly “review” a streamed performance? Probably not. But however different or diminished such a performance, one can—and must—bear witness to such an event when it represents a landmark in the evolution of an art form.

A dance to life in Munich’s Indes galantes

A review by Roger Downey

Above: Anna Prohaska (Phani/Fatime), François Lis (Huascar/ Don Alvaro)

Photos courtesy of Bayerische Staatsoper

 

Such to my mind was the world premiere of Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s staging of Rameau’s Les indes galantes for this summer’s opera festival at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

M. Cherkaoui, a Belgian of Moroccan descent, has been dancing since he was 13; he won his first major prize as a performer when he was 21 and has received awards for his choreography—the Kouros in 2009, two Oliviers (in ’11 and 14) with almost monotonous regularity. He is a handsome, personable, articulate media magnet, whose work, immediately accessible seamlessly blends classical steps, modern dance intensity, and street moves.

He is also an insanely talented choreographer, probably the most gifted and distinctive to emerge since the American Mark Morris burst onto the international dance scene on the stage of Belgium’s Theatre de la Monnaie a quarter century ago. With his first operatic staging, he has established himself a master of this most difficult of dramatic arts, and done so with a work from the French opera-ballet repertory, arguably the most challenging form for a stage director or choreographer in all the lyric theater repertory.

The society that gave birth to the French operatic repertory is as dead-and-gone as Akhnaten’s Egypt. The grandeurs and absurdities of Parisian grand opéra swept away the huge repertory of tragèdie lyrique and comèdie ballet and all but ground to dust the performing tradition upon which the depended. The “comeback” of this repertory over the last 40 years is even more astonishing in light of the plain fact, widely recognized though rarely acknowledged, that many revivals of works of the period 1660–1750 productions have succeeded on purely musico-dramatic grounds, with their huge choreographic element either unsupportive of or actively discordant with the overall experience.

csm_9C2A0713_c934f6be76.pngJohn Moore (Adario), Lisette Oropesa (Hébé/Zima), Tänzer der Compagnie Eastman, Antwerpen

There are good reasons that so many of these stagings found themselves so artistically conflicted. The most powerful choreographic trends of the period, particularly in the Francophone nations of Europe, were indifferent to or actively hostile toward the old values of grace and musicality in dance: rough, spasmodic, angular, abstract movement was all but compulsory for a dance-maker to be considered serious and important.

Anybody who has come to love the dance-operas of Lully, Charpentier, and Rameau can also recall the embarrassment, anger, and boredom occasioned by stagings in which dance and music and drama were, if not in open war, at most grudging and awkward collaborators.

And the same lovers of this repertory can recall moments when suddenly the warfare ceased: when all the elements melted together and if only for a little while, released the intoxicating perfume of this art at its most elevated.

It is fitting that M. Cherkaoui hails from the anti-beauty heartland of modern dance. His work in Les indes galantes embraces every dance fashion and trend of the last 40 years and harmonizes them because he’s not thinking about them but about the ever-passing moment of the music. His movement exalts the human figure, celebrates human interaction, energizes the stage picture from back wall to apron, wing to wing, flies to floor.

M. Cherkaoui’s approach to librettist Louis Fuzilier’s string of loosly-connected illustrations of true love in exotic climes is to melt them together, retaining the amorous spirit but making the individual tales of pasha and slave-girl, Inca prince and temple-maiden etc. fragments floating on a continuous spate of images.

The setting is a drably furnished école élémentaire: uniformed students in their battered desks, informative maps and charts on the wall, hard-working teachers and staff going about the pedestrian essentials of creating new citizens for France.

And that is the only moment is the show that might be called pedestrian. Rameau’s music blows through this space, suggesting and supporting a flickering series of visions of a world in flux, peoples displaced, cultures in conflict. The overall effect is to portray a universal struggle for stability, safety, repose. And at every moment the tone is set by Rameau. The movement seems only the inevitable consequence: the touchstone of great choreography in any age.

csm_Les_Indes_galantes_A._Quintans_C._Auvity_A._Prohaska_T._Nazmi_Compagnie_Eastman_c__W._Hoesl___-_Kopie_81125697df.pngAna Quintans (L’Amour/Zaire), Cyril Auvity (Valère), Anna Prohaska (Phani/Fatime), Tareq Nazmi (Osman/Ali), Tänzer der Compagnie Eastman, Antwerpen

The use of contemporary popular dance forms is not new in this repertory: José Montalvo’s 2004 staging of Rameau’s Les paladins for the Châtelet was non-stop hip-hop, visually dazzling but utterly failing to provide anything but dazzle.

The difference from the Munich Indes galantes could not be more striking. Cherkaoui has found a movement synthesis which moves: the dazzle is just a delightful extra. What seems at first a high-handed way with the dramaturgy of the work proves to be the best way I have ever encountered in this repertory to break through to its enduring essence.

I believe that soon this exemplary staging—all hail the Bavarian State Opera for its courage and dedication in mounting it—will soon be seen as a milestone in the revival of French baroque theater on a par with the 1987 Atys of Jean-Marie Villégier and William Christie. One of the commonest tropes of Baroque dramaturgy is the ever-troubled alliance between the arts of music and dance (the first act of the Molière-Lully Bourgeois gentilhomme is the locus classicus). M. Cherkaoui appears like a god from the flies to join their hands once more after too long a divorce.

Roger Downey


Cast and production details:

Musikalische Leitung
Ivor Bolton
Inszenierung und Choreographie Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Bühne Anna Viebrock
Kostüme Greta Goiris
Licht Michael Bauer
Dramaturgie Antonio Cuenca , Miron Hakenbeck
Chor Detlef Bratschke


Hébé Lisette Oropesa
Bellone Goran Jurić
L'Amour Ana Quintans
Osman Tareq Nazmi
Emilie Elsa Benoit
Valère Cyril Auvity
Huascar François Lis
Phani Anna Prohaska
Don Carlos Mathias Vidal
Tacmas Cyril Auvity
Ali Tareq Nazmi
Zaire Ana Quintans
Fatime Anna Prohaska
Damon Mathias Vidal
Don Alvaro François Lis
Zima Lisette Oropesa
Adario John Moore
Tänzerinnen Jennifer White , Niku Navala Chaudhari,Acacia Schachte,Ema Yuasa, Nicola Leahey
Tänzer Elias Lazaridis , Kazutomi “Tsuki” Kozuki,Shintaro Oue,Patrick Williams "Twoface" Seebacher,Denis Kooné,James Vu Anh Pham, Jason Kittelberger

Tänzer der Compagnie Eastman, Antwerpen

Balthasar-Neumann-Chor, Freiburg

Münchner Festspielorchester

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):