Well, it's only been one season and some people are starting to wonder how long Gérard Mortier will last at the Opéra National de Paris. In an article (Nicolas Joel disponible pour l'Opéra de Paris, July 1) for Le Figaro, Christian Merlin interviews Nicolas Joel, director of the very successful opera company at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse. They are currently presenting two operas at the Châtelet, Cherubini's Medea with Anna Caterina Antonacci and Puccini's La Rondine with Angela Gheorghiu. Here's a short translated excerpt:
How do you get casts like this?A diplomatic response to the question, but also a fairly clear one.
It seems to me like the least thing an opera director should do is get the best singers of the day. First of all, it's a matter of planning. You have to think three or four years in advance (in fact, I have just received a contract from the Vienna Opera to do a Faust there in 2008). It also means having a close relationship with the artists: they come if they know that they will find optimal working conditions, in particular for the chance to discover new roles. When I direct abroad, I do a lot of listening. Also, you must have a network of people you trust. Finally, I read a lot of opera reviews in the national and international press: every day I read the German, Italian, English dailies.
How is the Festival des Régions organized?
In concert with Jean-Pierre Brossmann. The last time we came, it was with French repertory (Louise and Hamlet) and, at the time, I had said that if we came back, I wanted to do something else, because we are in no way a specialized company. It's a joint financial venture: the Châtelet pays for the moving expenses, the trip, housing the artists in Paris, and we come with our sets, our costumes, and productions already rehearsed and performed in Toulouse. For La Rondine, which is a coproduction with London, the Châtelet technicians had already gone to observe at Covent Garden to prepare. This Festival is a chance for the Parisian audience that cannot come to Toulouse to see our work. [...]
The question of a successor for Gérard Mortier at the Opéra de Paris will come up soon: do you see a Parisian future for yourself?
For a post like that one, you are not a candidate, you are called...
But you not deny that you will make yourself available?
I do not even deny that I am preparing myself for it: if the usual delays occur, I would have the time.