Offenbach in Lyon (December 2, 2005)
Hans Werner Henze, L'Upupa, in Lyon (September 26, 2005)
Hans Werner Henze, L'Upupa, in Lyon (July 22, 2005)
Makropoulos Affair in Lyon (May 20, 2005)
William Christie's Poppea in Lyon (January 28, 2005)
With Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa, the Opéra de Lyon has accomplished a first twice. The first staged production of this opera in France, the work having been premiered by Radio France in 1978 but only in a concert version. And also the first panel of a Tchaikovsky-Pushkin triptych staged by the German director Peter Stein, to be followed in future seasons by Eugene Onegin and then The Queen of Spades. "Peter Stein has always shown a predilection for Russian theater," agrees Serge Dorny, director of the Opéra de Lyon, "and giving him the Tchaikovsky operas seemed necessary."
Adapted from Pushkin's Poltava, an epic poem relating the victorious battle of Peter the Great against the Ukrainian rebellion, Mazeppa is part of the Russian grand opera tradition (Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich). Far from the young Romantic hero bound naked to a wild horse as punishment for an adultery, set to verse by Byron [Mazeppa] and Victor Hugo (Les Orientales), Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa is an old man. But he has kept his power and seductiveness. Out of love for him, the young Maria -- his goddaugther, the daughter of his best friend -- does not hesitate to ruin her family's lives, causing her own father's death, when he is executed by Mazeppa for treason.
|Available at Amazon:|
P. Tchaikovsky, Mazeppa, Kirov Opera, conducted by Valery Gergiev, recorded in 1996 (DVD release, April 13, 2004)
Many would have wanted him, a few months from now, to make an application to succeed Bernard Foccroulle at the Théâtre de la Monnaie [in Brussels]. But Serge Dorny preferred to remain at the Opéra de Lyon, the second opera stage of France after the Opéra de Paris (in the hands of another Belgian, Gérard Mortier), having found in the City of the Gauls the means to develop the sort of original programming that he loves. Fighting against the globalization of opera -- that tendency to mount similar productions everywhere, less out of the propensity toward coproduction than because of a uniformity in schools of thought -- the Flemish director puts together seasons unlike anyone else's, and even the notion of a season is almost irrelevant because his projects develop so much over time.We will keep our eyes on that for you. As usual, the Lyon Opera's Web site is excellent: for this opera alone, you can read the program (.PDF file), watch a video excerpt, read the press materials (.PDF file), and look at some photos. Especially for this production, the Lyon Opera commissioned a special comic book version of the story of Mazeppa -- Antoine Desnoyers's Amour Orange (.PDF file) -- which you can read online.
That's the case with this cycle of Tchaikovsky operas based on Pushkin, entrusted to Peter Stein, the former director of the Berlin Schaubühne, for a time responsible for the theatrical wing of the Salzburg Festival, and above all a major figure in German and European theater. "Stein is known for his work on Russian theater, but in opera he had directed Verdi, Debussy, Schoenberg, and Henze but never Russian composers," Dorny explains. And now we have this rare Mazeppa, for the first time on a French stage (Dorny had presented it in Belgium, in a concert version conducted by Valery Gergiev, when he was artistic director of the Festival des Flandres): The Queen of Spades and Eugene Onegin, more traditional, will follow before the cycle is reprised (and filmed for DVD) as a trilogy in the 2008-2009 season, a framing process that Dorny already succeeded with last year for Janáček.
All of this can help you get prepared for the next best thing, for those of us who didn't make it to Lyon. In New York, the Metropolitan Opera will offer its own staging of Mazeppa next month, conducted by Valery Gergiev, from March 6 to 30. We will have the chance to hear it on the Met radio broadcast on Saturday, March 18, at 1:30 pm.