Thursday, 26 February 2015

Today : World première of Jörn Arnecke's 'Ronja Räubertochter' in Duisburg

Today, Jörn Arnecke's new children opera, Ronja Räubertochter (Ronja, the Robber's Daughter) is being performed for the first time in Duisburg. The libretto by Holger Potocki is based on Astrid Lindgren's novel. Arnecke has already composed a dozen stage works for children.

In the night when Ronia was born, thunder rolled over the mountains. Yes it was such a stormy night that even all the monsters who lived in Mattis’ Forest crawled away in fright … ” – Ronia, daughter of Mattis, a robber chieftain, grows up in the middle of the forest. One day on her travels she meets Birk, son of the enemy robber tribe of Borka. When the two’s parents forbid them to become friends, Ronia and Birk run away into the woods… (reproduced from the opera house's website)
The cast includes Maria Kataeva (Ronja), Heidi Elisabeth Meier (Birk), Torben Jürgens (Mattis), Cornel Frey (Borka), Marta Marquez (Lovis). Lukas Beikircher conducts and Johannes Schmid directs. It should last about 2 hours, including one interval. Performances will follow in Düsseldorf.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Today : world première of 'The Property' by Wlad Marhulets in Chicago (IL)

Today, the new chamber opera composed by Wlad Marhulets, The Property, with a libretto by Stephanie Fleischmann adapted from Rutu Modan's graphic novel, will be performed in Chicago at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.
The libretto tells the story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, who travel to modern Warsaw to try to regain family property lost during World War II. As their journey unfolds, Regina is forced to confront painful truths about her past, including her history with Roman Gorski. Meanwhile, Mica navigates a relationship with their Polish tour guide, Tomasz, and realizes their reasons for coming might not be all that they seemed. (reproduced from the Lyric Opera of Chicago website)
The cast includes  mezzo-soprano Jill Grove (Regina Segal), soprano Anne Slovin (Mica), baritone James Maddalena (Roman Gorski) and baritone Nathaniel Olson (Tomas). They are joined by an instrumental ensemble of six players, including members of Chicago's Maxwell Street Klezmer Band. Eric Einhorn directs.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Philippe Boesmans : 'Au Monde' in Paris, performance, program books and full score

Yesterday, I attended the first performance in Paris and in France of Au Monde, the last opera composed by Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans, with a libretto by Joël Pommerat after his own play. It took place at the Opéra Comique (Salle Favart).

After the world première of this opera in Brussels in March 2014, I had acquired the program book (2 volumes, including the complete libretto) published by the Théâtre de la Monnaie. The opera was subsequently broadcast by the Arte TV channel, and the full score was published by French publisher Jobert. I recently also bought the original play published by Actes Sud. Therefore, I was quite ready to attend this performance.

It happened to be a very enjoyable performance, though the subject has nothing of a comedy :
Behind closed doors, in a world as dark as an abyss or a belly, a family protects itself from outside light and life. The play begins with the celebration of the adopted daughter’s birthday and the return of the youngest son from the military. Old worlds living side by side with the women, the youth, the beauty, the love they do not express. Every character is obstinately in quest of his own truth, but as the quest progresses, the mystery fed with desire and trouble becomes obvious (own translation of the synopsis).
The opera lasts about 2 hours, with no intermission. There is a unique set, transforming the stage into a 'black box' with only a few props : couch, armchairs, table and chairs. The darkness of the set is from time to time disrupted with light coming from an opening in the back. Thus the audience is forced to focus its attention on the characters. Too bad the theater decided to use the back of the stage to project French surtitles which act as a rather disturbing element, considering parts of the libretto in English and pseudo-Basque (written by the actress herself) are not translated. As in most of Maurice Maeterlinck's plays, the characters' main occupation is to be waiting : first for the return of Ori, then for him to become blind. Though there is no ensemble as such, the composer manages to keep the audience awake (on the contrary of the characters : Ori and the father alternatively sleeping on- or off-stage) with an inventive score, though not as inventive as Levinas' for Le Petit prince. The accordion is wisely used as a timbre modifier rather than as a soloist. All singers were up to their jobs, and the conductor managed to keep the orchestra's level low enough so it is possible to hear every word, which as quite rare in this theater.
The orchestra is the following :
- 2 flutes, 2 oboes (II also English horn), 2 clarinets (II also bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (II also contrabassoon) ;
- 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 tuba ;
- harp, piano and celesta ;
- 4 percussions : timpani, glockenspiel, vibraphone, maracas, tam-tam, triangle, small cymbal, 4 tumbas, crotales, glass chimes, tubular belles, bass drum, 4 bongos, 4 toms, 2 cymbals, snare drum, tenor drum, marimbaphone, 3 wood blocks, tambourine, temple blocks, whip ;
- accordion ;
- strings.

The cast consists of 8 singers : the father (bass, Frode Olsen), the eldest son (bass baritone, Werner van Mechelen), Ori (baritone, Philippe Sly), the eldest daughter (mezzo, Charlotte Hellekant), the second daughter (soprano, Patricia Petibon), the youngest daughter (soprano, Ffur Wyn), the eldest daughter's husband (tenor, Yann Beuron), a woman employed in the house (actress, Ruth Olaizola). The Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France is conducted by Patrick Davin. Joël Pommerat, who wrote the original play and the libretto, directs.

The original program book (96 pages), published by the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, contains :

- In memoriam Gérard Mortier ;
- complete cast and dates of performance ;
- synopsis, by Christian Longchamp ;
- "Au Monde" by Joël Pommerat ;
- Propos de campagne... Sur la route de "Au Monde", by Patrick Davin ;
- Speculum mundi, l'étrangeté, du théâtre à l'opéra, by Cécile Auzolle ;
- De la famille au monde, by Dirk de Wachter
There are several pages of black and white pictures, several pages of quotes by various authors, several photos of sketches by the composer. The biographies of the singers are in another booklet. A separate booklet Another volume contains the complete libretto. The three volumes are bilingual (French and Dutch).

The program book (104 pages) published by the parisian theater contains the articles written by Longchamp, Pommeat, Davin and Auzolle for the Belgian performances, as well as :

- "À lire avant le spectacle", followed by "Argument" ;
- Background and synopsis (in English) ;
- color photos of the production ;
- biographies of Philippe Boesmans and Joël Pommerat ;
- excerpts of Pommerat's writings on theater ;
- excerpts of works by Shakespeare, Chekhov, and Maeterlinck ;
- complete libretto ;
- biographies.

It is written in French.

Shortly before the performance, I bought the full score published by Éditions Jobert  in Paris. It is a A3 size book of 350 pages with spiral binding, providing a safe and flat opening, with no risk of damaging it.

The reading is very easy : the music and text are printed in a very convenient constant size. The title page reads : "Philippe Boesmans / Au monde / Opéra sur un livret de Joël Pommerat / pour solistes et orchestre / Partition d'orchestre / Éditions Jobert / [...] © Copyright 2012 by Éditions Jobert". On the last unnumbered page before music starts, the complete cast for the first performance is printed. Unfortunately, this is the only information given on the work. There is no orchestral or vocal setting provided. Therefore I had to write down all percussion instruments used in the score while reading it, to get an accurate orchestral setting. There are also several inaccuracies about the name of the only character who has one : depending on the source (the original play, the published libretto, the score, the website of La Monnaie...), it is spelled 'Ori' or 'Ory'. I wonder if at some point it has not been confused with Rossini's Le Comte Ory.

There are several mistakes (including spelling) in the score that do not appear in the printed libretto :

- p. 22 : "TEXTE ??" is printed over over the 'La seconde fille' stave. Something might be missing there ;
- p. 46 : "Gde symb." over the '4. perc.' stave : probably a misspelling for "Gde cymb." ;
- p. 65 : 'Le père' : "dévastatrice", should be "dévastatrices" ;
- p. 180 : there are two identical and empty staves for "Vln. I 7-8" ;
- p. 202, measures 1390-1393 : the melodic line is ascending in the score and descending in the video recording ;
- p. 264, second system, 'La seconde fille' : "Elle ne fait rien de ces journées". It should be "ses journées" ;
- p. 267, measure 1945 : stage direction "Le Père sort". But the father is asleep (see p. 262). It should be "Le fils aîné sort" ;
- p. 270, stage direction : "Les deux sœurs le regardent sortir, pleine d'appréhension". It should be "pleines" ;
- p. 275, measures 1999-2000 : "ne dépérisse pas" in the score is replaced with "devienne meilleur" in the printed libretto and the video ;
- p. 291, last two bars : "répérer", it should be "repérer" ;
- p. 302, 'Tbne 1' : "sord. Hamon' should read 'sourd. Hamon' ;
- p. 309, first system, last bar : should be "ébranlées" as in the libretto, instead of "ébranlé".

Considering the price of the score, these mistakes are unacceptable, but the score remains very easy to read, despite its lack of information on the work.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Today : World première of Lucia Ronchetti's 'Mise en abyme' in Dresden

Today, Lucia Ronchetti's new opera, Mise en abyme / Reflection, with a libretto by Anne Gerber and the composer after letters and librettos by Pietro Metastasio, will be performed in Dresden.

Since 2000 (L'Ape apatica), Lucia Ronchetti has composed several chamber works for the musical stage, including children operas. This new work will be performed in Semper 2.
Mise en abyme is a chamber opera reproducing the preparation (the days before the premiere) of the Didone abbandonata, the opera seria created by Domenico Sarro and Pietro Metastasio in 1724 for the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples. [...] There is an extensive collection of letters Metastasio wrote during his long life, which describe his stage directions, writing process and theories, and which report judgments and ideas about  friends, enemies and collaborators. This will be the material for the “open discussion” among the characters, "filmed" during the preparation of the premiere. [...] The presence on stage of Metastasio as dramaturge and director, sharing his ideas and intuitions with his staff, while transforming the concept of music theatre, will provide an opportunity to attempt  a “play within the play”. In 18th-century musical productions, this was the instrument of a possible mediation between conventional genres and the occasion of a sort of dialogue with the audience. (reproduced from the composer's website (
The cast includes Sabine Brohm (mezzo, Dorina), Yosemeh Adjei (coutertenor, Nibbio), Roland Schubert (bass, Metastasio) and Jennifer Riedel (soprano, Didone). Felice Venanzoni will conduct musicians from the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. Axel Köhler directs.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Today : world premiere of 'Enemies, a Love Story' by Ben Moore, in Palm Beach

Today, Ben Moore's first opera, Enemies, a Love Story, with a libretto by Nahma Sandrow, based on Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel, will receive its first performance in Palm Beach (FL). It will be performed at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

New York City, 1949. Throughout the war, Holocaust survivor Herman Broder survived in a hayloft, taken care of by his non-Jewish, Polish servant, Yadwiga, whom he later takes as his wife in America. Meanwhile, he has an affair with another Holocaust survivor, Masha. To Yadwiga, he poses as a traveling book-salesman despite the fact he is simply a ghost writer for a corrupt rabbi. He wanders about New York with a constant paranoia and perpetual desperation, made more complicated when his first wife from Poland, Tamara, who was thought to be killed in the Holocaust, comes to New York. (reproduced from wikipedia)
The cast includes Daniel Okulitch (Herman Broder), Leann Sandel-Pantaleo (Tamara), Caitlin Lynch (Yadwiga), Danielle Pastin (Masha), Jennifer Roderer (Shifrah Puah), Philip Horst (Tortshiner) and David Kravitz (Rabbi Lampert). The Palm Beach Opera Chorus and Orchestra will be conducted by David Stern, with Sam Helfrich directing.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

First performance of 'Le Petit prince' by Michaël Levinas in Paris

Yesterday, I attended the first performance in Paris (Théâtre du Châtelet) of Le Petit prince, the last opera composed by French composer Michaël Levinas. Since its world première in Lausanne last November, The opera has been performed in Lille and Geneva. After Paris, performances will follow in Liège.

Lasting about 80 minutes (no intermission), the opera is a masterpiece of orchestration, one of the most interesting vocal score I have heard in years. Conceived for an orchestra of 40 musicians (including tubax, harp, 2 keyboards, percussion, strings, woodwinds and brass), the score is always compelling, with various styles adapted for each character. The switchman scene is particularly fascinating.

The young singers are very convincing in their multiple roles. Here is the cast : Jeanne Crousaud (Le Petit prince, soprano), Vincent Lièvre-Picard (L'Aviateur, tenor), Catherine Trottmann (La Rose, mezzo), Rodrigo Ferreira (Le Renard / Le Serpent, countertenor), Alexandre Diakoff (Le Roi / L'Ivrogne / L'Allumeur de réverbères / L'Aiguilleur, bass baritone), Benoît Capt (Le Vaniteux / Le Financier / Le Géographe, baritone) and Céline Soudain (La Rose multiple, soprano). The main parts didn't seem particularly easy to deal with, but all the singers did a great job.

The staging by Lilo Baur is a very light and bright one, perfecty suited to the faity-tale aspect of the story. The Orchestre de Picardie is conducted by Arie van Beek.

At least four operas had already been composed after this novel, in Russian (Lev Knipper, 1964), in German (Michael Horwath, 1985 and Nikolaus Schapfl, 2003) and in English (Rachel Portman, 2003). More than 70 years after the book was written, it was about time a French opera was composed !

The program book published by the Théâtre du Châtelet contains :

- complete cast and crew ;
- "Waiting for curtain-up", in French and English ;
- synopsis in French and English ;
- an interview with the composer from December 2014 ;
- an interview with the director from early November 2014 ;
- an article on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry ;
- biographies of the artists and several color photos of the production.

The opera is to be broadcast by France Musique, on Monday April 6th.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

New season 2015-2016 at the Opéra National de Paris

This Saturday morning, I have received the program of the 2015-2016 season at the Opéra National de Paris. It is the first season entirely conceived by new general manager Stéphane Lissner, back from the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

20 operas by 16 composers will be performed in 5 languages (there are 16 operas by 12 composers in 4 languages during the 2014-2015 season).

The season includes 8 new productions :

- Arnold Schönberg : Moses und Aron, conducted by Philippe Jordan, directed by Romeo Castellucci, with Thomas Johannes Mayer and John Graham-Hall ;
- a double bill with Bela Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Francis Poulenc's La Voix humaine, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, with Johannes Martin Kränzle, Ekaterina Gubanova and Barbara Hannigan ;
- Hector Berlioz : La Damnation de Faust, conducted by Philippe Jordan, directed by Alvis Hermanis, with Sophie Koch, Jonas Kaufman and Bryn Terfel ;
- Giuseppe Verdi : Il Trovatore, conducted by Daniele Callegari, directed by Alex Ollé, with Ludovic Tézier, Anna Netrebko, Ekaterina Sementchuk and Marcelo Alvarez ;
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky : Iolanta, conducted by Alain Altinoglu, directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov, with Sonya Yoncheva and Alexander Tsymbalyuk (double bill with the ballet Nutcracker) ;
- Giuseppe Verdi : Rigoletto, conducted by Nicola Luisotti, directed by Claus Guth, with Quinn Kelsey and Olga Peretyatko ;
- Aribert Reimann : Lear, conducted by Fabio Luisi, directed by Calixto Bieito, with Bo Skovhus, Gidon Saks, Ricarda Merbeth and Edda Moser.

Also advertised as a new production but already performed in Salzburg in 2013, Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, conducted by Philippe Jordan, directed by Stefan Herheim, with Gerald Finley, Bo Skovhus and Julia Kleiter.

Another contemporary opera will have its first performance in France (and in French) : Joanna Lee's The Way back Home (as Vol retour), conducted by Stephen Higgins and directed by Katie Mitchell.

The following productions will be revived :

- Giacomo Puccini : Madama Butterfly, directed by Robert Wilson ;
- Jean-Philippe Rameau : Platée, directed by Laurent Pelly ;
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : Don Giovanni, directed by Michael Haneke ;
- Gaetano Donizetti : L'Elisir d'amore, directed by Laurent Pelly ;
- Jules Massenet : Werther, directed by Benoit Jacquot ;
- Richard Strauss : Capriccio, directed by Robert Carsen ;
- Gioachino Rossini : Il Barbiere di Siviglia, directed by Damiano Michieletto ;
- Richard Strauss : Der Rosenkavalier, directed by Herbert Wernicke ;
- Giuseppe Verdi : La Traviata, directed by Benoit Jacquot ;
- Giuseppe Verdi : Aida, directed by Olivier Py.

Here are some interesting statistics :

- 2 operas composed in the 18th century, 11 from the 19th century, 6 from the 20th century and 1 from the 21st century ;
- 8 operas in Italian, 5 in French, 5 in German, 1 in Hungarian and 1 in Russian.

Reimann's opera is a welcome new production considering we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016. This season is the most interesting we had ath the Opéra national de Paris for years. Let's hope that it will be followed by other new productions including world premières.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Received in the mail this morning : program book for Anton Lubchenko's 'Doctor Zhivago'

This Friday morning, I have received the program book published by Theater Regensburg for the world première performance of Anton Lubchenko's Doctor Zhivago.

It contains :

- complete cast and crew ;
- plot summary ;
- a dialogue with the composer ;
- chronology of Boris Pasternak's life ;
- biographies of composer, stage director, set designer, costume designer and video director ;
- color picturs of the production.

It is entirely in German.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Received in the mail this morning : program leaflet for Gumundsen-Holmgreen's 'Sun goes up, sun goes down'

This Monday morning, I have received in the mail the program leaflet published by the Danish National Opera for the world première performance of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's first opera Sol går op, sol går ned (Sun goes up, sun goes down).

It is a 8 pages leaflet, entirely in Danish. It contains :

- complete cast and crew (including the duration of the performance) ;
- an article by the composer on vernacular and Bible languages ;
- an article by stage director Eva-Maria Melbye ;
- some pictures from the performances.