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8.3.05

Gergiev Conducts Otello in Paris

One of the more recent Opéra de Paris productions at the Bastille is Giuseppe Verdi's Otello, with Valery Gergiev conducting (ending on March 10). In an article (Valery Gergiev, le météore, February 17) for Le Figaro, Christian Merlin describes a nearly abortive interview with the "meteoric" Russian conductor. He has conducted operas in Paris before, but always with his own group from the Mariinsky Theater. At 51 years old, he has agreed to make his debut with Opéra de Paris because of his respect for Gérard Mortier. His incredibly busy schedule made him arrive 20 minutes late for rehearsal with the opera orchestra, after which he managed to carve out only 10 minutes to answer Merlin's questions.

He raises his batonless hand and immediately the storm of Otello makes the theater's walls tremble. The super Opéra orchestra glows without a thousand fires, cellos and basses sing eloquently, the brass scold and beat with discipline and clarity. One is immediately drawn by what is rising up from the pit. Hypnotized, one barely has the time to wonder how the musicians and chorus can understand his indecipherable gestures and the little shakings of his hand, which seems to be beating an omelet: his diabolical eyes and the fluid movement of his arm are surely enough.
In an article (Art total, February 17) for ConcertoNet.com, Katia Choquer wrote about the opera's premiere:
It would seem that one can judge an audience's attention during whatever performance by the rate of coughing. Thus, the almost uninterrupted silence that reigned at the Bastille yesterday night for the reprise of Otello was revelatory. As soon as the curtain went up, from the first notes in the orchestra, on was struck by a spectacle whose intensity was never going to let up.
Marie-Aude Roux reviewed the opera (Valery Gergiev dirige avec feu à Bastille un "Otello" controversé, February 20) for Le Monde:
These are not notes bursting from Valery Gergiev's baton, but a thunderbolt: a storm of wind, water, fire that tears at space and terrifies the chorus of Cypriots massed at the port for the victoriuos return of Otello. A devastating power, metaphysical. Gergiev the sorceror thus made his debut at the Opéra de Paris. Standing in the pit, these musicians, with an unflappable reputation, embraced the flamboyant head of the Mariisky in St. Petersburg, applauding him as he left his stand to greet the audience from the stage.
It all sounds legendary. See also Caroline Alexander, Les embrasements de Valery Gergiev (Webthea, February 24)

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