Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

Daniel Kramer's new La traviata at English National Opera

Verdi's La traviata is one of those opera which every opera company needs to have in its repertoire, and productions need to balance intelligent exploration of the issues raised by the work with the need to reach as wide an audience as possible with an opera which is likely to attract audience members who are not regular opera-goers.

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.

Mortal Voices: the Academy of Ancient Music at Milton Court

The relationship between music and money is long-standing, complex and inextricable. In the Baroque era it was symbiotically advantageous.

I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

What better evocation of bel canto than an opera which uses the power of song to dispel madness and to reunite the heroine with her banished fiancé? Such is the final premise of Vincenzo Bellini’s I puritani, currently in performance at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Iolanthe: English National Opera

The current government’s unfathomable handling of the Brexit negotiations might tempt one to conclude that the entire Conservative Party are living in the land of the fairies. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 operetta Iolanthe, the arcane and Arcadia really do conflate, and Cal McCrystal’s new production for English National Opera relishes this topsy-turvy world where peris consort with peri-wigs.

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marseille

Any Laurent Pelly production is news, any role undertaken by soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac is news. Here’s the news from Marseille.



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):