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7.3.06

Next Season at the Châtelet

In September, Jean-Luc Choplin will take over from Jean-Pierre Brossmann as director of the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. The Châtelet was started as a theater for light operetta. In 1980, the city of Paris reopened the Châtelet as the "théâtre musical de Paris," and its first three directors made the theater's programming more general and more modern. Last month, Choplin announced that his first season (.PDF file) would open with Le Chanteur de Mexico, an operetta by Francis Lopez (planned with Roberto Alagna in the role made famous by Luis Mariano, a plan that did not work out). The posters, in shocking and kitschy pink, seem to indicate that Choplin plans to lighten up the theater's programming. Choplin's tendencies are playful, perhaps from his work with the Disney Corporation, first at Disneyland Paris and then directly with Michael Eisner, where he was involved with commissioning American composers with Disney's money. What will this man bring to the Châtelet? An article by Renaud Machart and Marie-Aude Roux (Au Châtelet, le programme 2006 -2007 sera éclectique, March 2) for Le Monde has an analysis (my translation and links added):

"No, I am not going to remake the Châtelet into what it was before 1980," declared Jean-Luc Choplin. "But in this theater's history, there is a 'black hole', a part of itself that we want to ignore. I want the Châtelet to rediscover that tradition of grand spectacle, but rethought, shifted. In any case, there will be more than just the light French genre, there will be American musical comedies like Leonard Bernstein's Candide or, in the future, Stephen Sondheim's Follies." Many see Jean-Luc Choplin as a dangerous defender of entertainment values, ingrained in him during the years he spent chez Walt Disney (first at Disneyland Paris and then with the American company's CEO, Michael Eisner, from 1995 to 2002 in Los Angeles).

However, this flutist and economist by training got his start, at the age of 22, on the artistic cutting edge of the Fêtes de la Sainte-Baume (1976-1980), where he worked with John Cage and Robert Wilson. [...] "Far from destroying the recent tradition of the Châtelet," says Choplin, "my programming, to the contrary, will be part of a continuum, undoubtedly more about 'happenings' and eclectic in tone." Carmen (May 10 to 28, 2007) will exist alongside Pascal Dusapin's new opera Faustus, the Last Night (November 15 to 18), as well as a rare work by Rossini, La Pietra del Paragone (January 18 to 28, 2007), and a "Chinese pop opera" based on Wu Cheng'en's Journey to the West, a Chinese literary classic, with the music assigned to Damon Albarn, one of the founding members of the English rock group Blur and of Gorillaz (July 14 to 21, 2007).
Géraldine Keiflin will premiere a new version of the operetta-revue performed in the concentration camp Ravensbrück, Le Verfügbar aux enfers, with words by deported Resistance member Germain Tillion. Robert Wilson will direct a staged version of the J. S. Bach St. John Passion, in collaboration with choreographer Lucinda Childs. Christian Merlin also wrote an article about the new season (Le Châtelet mélange les genres, March 2) for Le Figaro (my translation and links added):
The Mayor of Paris [Bertrand Delanoë] laid out the mission he was entrusting to the new director: "To dare eclecticism, diversity, the mixture of styles and generations, so that the house of art may also be the house of the citizens." It sounds like quite a dossier. Jean-Luc Choplin, for his part, says he wants "an open place, convivial, in the heart of Paris, to give Parisians their dreams." A popular Châtelet, that is the new order of the day. [...]

Nevertheless, opera will remain most important, with the reprise of Rameau's Les Paladins, in the stunning version by [William] Christie, Montalvo, and Hervieu, marking a certain continuity with the Brossmann era. [...] For lovers of French opera, the presence of Renée Fleming in Thaïs will be a sure attraction (even if it is hard to imagine Christoph Eschenbach in Massenet...), and Carmen conducted by Marc Minkowski, on period instruments, with the very inventive Sandrine Anglade directing and the much too rare Sylvie Brunet in the title role. [...] Classical concerts, on the other hand, are clearly on the decline: between the possibility of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and the reopening of the Salle Pleyel, the major orchestras of France and the world, have fewer reasons to go to the Châtelet.
One last note: Daniel Barenboim will bring the Berlin Staatskapelle to the Châtelet three times. It all sounds great, and the Châtelet is only one of several theaters in Paris. Where are those immigration papers again?

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