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November 2002 - January 2003

Geneva - 25 November
Zemlinsky: - Der Zwerg / Eine florentinische Tragödie



Paris - 26 November
Martinu: Julietta



Lyons - 10 December
Moussorgsky: Boris Godunov

  • If any doubts still subsisted as to the state of the Opéra de Lyon, this new production of Boris Godunov clearly indicated that the company has a long way to go in recovering its privileged status in the operatic world. Philipp Himmelmann, staging his first opera in France after much experience in the German-speaking world, is of "the audience is so stupid that we must underline everything at least three times" school of production. Designer Johannes Leiacker's monumental gilded staircase dominated the stage, with the rest looking like a prison cell, so that Pimen's cell was overcrowded with not only Grigori but five other monks, while the Innkeeper was but one of many inmates of a flophouse, 'taken from behind' by Varlaam during his aria. The Simpleton (Léonard Pezzino) was present from the start, silently wandering around with a floppy stuffed doll. Jorge Jara's costumes for Boris and his retinue were traditional while the people were dressed in the obligatory ragtag from the salvation army and a Moscow army surplus store. Marina and her court were fashionably dressed, down to what are known as "fuck-me" shoes. Ivan Fischer was absent for family reasons, so that his assistant, Alexander Livenson, took over, leading a performance with little sense of dynamic or nuance. Vladimir Matorin's Boris offered the conventional tortured soul who loves his children, occasionally sounding as if his mouth were full of mashed potatoes. Sergei Alexashkin's Pimen was more effective in the first act than in his confrontation with Boris, another moment that the producer simply failed to bring to life. Peter Daaliysky's Varlaam sounded too baritonal while at the same time anonymous. Paul Gay made much more of Rangoni, while Zoran Todorovich was a convincing Grigori, heroic where necessary while lyrical in the scene with Marina, a forceful Mzia Nioradze. Notable contributions came from Svetlana Lifar (Fiodor), Martine Olmeda (Nurse) and Jan Jezek (Shuisky). The opera was given in its final form, without the now customary interpolation of the St. Basil scene, so that the Simpleton's sole contribution makes its effect.



Lausanne - 17 December
Martín y Soler: La Capricciosa Correta

  • La Capricciosa Corretta was my second exposure to an opera by Mozart's contemporary, Vicente Martin y Soler, far more interesting than Il burbero di buon core seen in Montpellier in 1995, perhaps because Christophe Rousset is a far more theatrical conductor than Jordi Savall while the cast entered into their roles with greater enthusiasm than had been the case in the earlier performance. Rumours notwithstanding, La Capricciosa Corretta is not derived from The Taming of the Shrew but is an original libretto by none other than Lorenzo da Ponte written for London in 1795. There is also a link with Cosi fan Tutte, which carries the subtitle La scuola degli Amanti, while this time the subtitle is La scuola dei Maritati, the School for Spouses. Ciprigna, the heroine, is a shrew who browbeats the household of her husband, his two children, their two servants and her cavalier servente. It is the arrival of a suitor for the daughter's hand who Ciprigna mistakenly thinks is after her that sets in motion the plot by which she ultimately becomes a loving, obedient wife. In the small Theâtre Municpal de Lausanne, the small-voiced cast had little trouble coming through, from the vibrant Marguerite Kroll in the title role to Josep-Miquel Ramon as the wily servant, Fiuta. Enrique Baquerizo, the exhausted husband Bonario, offered a substantial baritone voice, that contrasted with the lighter-toned Carlos Marin, Don Giglio (the cavalier servente). Tenor Yves Saelens (Lelio, the suitor) sounded more comfortable than Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro (Valerio, the son), the writing of his role reminiscent of Mozart's Ottavio or Ferrando. Raffaella Milanesi (Cilia, the maid) offered more presence than Katia Velletaz (an almost inaudible Isabella, the daughter). Rita de Letteriis's no-nonsense production in the simple décor by Philippe Miesch benefitted from the elegant costumes by Patrice Cauchetier. But is is Martin himself who emerges the victor, his music direct in its simplicity, but not afraid to exploit the capabilities of his singers.



Paris - 18 December
Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten


Paris -19 December
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel



Marseilles - 3 January 2003
Offenbach: La Périchole

  • A new production of La Périchole was entrusted to a production team led by Laurent Pelly whose previous operatic ventures have all been in collaboration with Marc Minkowski (Orphée aux Enfers, La Belle Hélène, Platée). Conductor Laurent Campellone did a reasonable job of taming the orchestra, but his tendency to allow verbal expressivity to interrupt musical flow exceeds the normal parameters for rubato. Stéphanie d'Oustrac's youth and enthusiasm in the title role worked to the advantage of the producer, though such ideas as having her simulate vomiting at the end of each verse of the 'tipsy' aria might be thought excessive. D'Oustrac's previous appearances in the baroque sphere have clearly heightened her verbal awareness so that she is able to point the words to good effect. The normally stolid Marc Laho (Piquillo wearing the type of tee shirt described as a 'wife beater') seemed liberated both vocally and scenically. Jean-François Lapointe would have seeemed a logical choice for the role of Piquillo with his matinée-idol looks, but his interpretation of the Viceroy was a far cry from the comic turn usually encountered: this was truly a dangerous personage. That Lapointe was ill did not seem to affect his engagement. Bernard van der Meersch (Panatellas), Jean Ségani (Don Pedro), Sophie-Marie Martel, Georgia Ellis-Filice and Doris Lamprecht (Cousins, Ladies-in-waiting) rounded out a homogeneous cast. Pelly is not only the producer but the costume designer, thereby requiring the assistance of someone credited as costumologue, whatever that may mean. What we saw were the familiar '40s and '50s remnants garnered in thrift shops that Pelly seems to favour. Laura Scozzi's hysterical choreography is all too familiar, while it is difficult to establish whether she or Pelly is responsible for the 'one gesture per word' hyper-activity that too often permeates the finales. While critics might be upset to find Pelly recycling ideas already seen in earlier productions, my companion pointed out that audiences are not necessarily as mobile as critics and what seems old hat to the reviewer might be new to the audience.



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