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5.4.08

Les Journaux

Cultural news bits from the European press.

La Péniche Opéra, an adventurous little company in Paris, has just premiered a new opera by Alexandros Markeas (b. 1965), reviewed by Pierre Gervasoni (Jules Dassin incarné à l'opéra, April 3) for Le Monde. Outsider, set to a libretto by May Bouhada, tells the story of film director Jules Dassin, who coincidentally died in Athens on March 31. In 1951 Dassin, founder of the Actor's Studio, was denounced by the McCarthy Commission, named as a communist sympathizer by American director Elia Kazan. The score features four roles, Dassin, a Greek composer named Anatoli, Anatoli's wife, Kathleen, and Anatoli's cousin Zelia, as well as a vocal sextet. Each act is set in a different barge (péniches), one that represents New York (Anatoli and Kathleen, with more traditional musical sounds of saxophone, cello, bass, and piano) and the other that represents a tavern in Greece (Dassin and Zelia, with folk sounds of accordion, guitar, and upright piano). See also Simon Corley's review for ConcertoNet.

Other Reviews of Wozzeck:

Eric Dahan, «Wozzeck» dans une cafétéria (Libération, April 1)

Francesca Guerrasio, Dans un monde insondable et prosaïque (ResMusica, April 1)

Caroline Alexander, La solitude dans l’indifférence du monde (Webthea, April 2)

Christian Merlin, Simon Keenlyside, l'acteur chantant (Le Figaro, April 3)
The Opéra national de Paris is mounting Berg's Wozzeck at the Bastille right now, and Renaud Machart was there to review it (Un "Wozzeck" d'anthologie, April 1) for Le Monde. Director Christoph Marthaler, whose Marriage of Figaro was booed so vociferously two years ago, has had instead a notable success with this new production:
In the extraordinary interpretation -- warmly applauded at the premiere -- by the Swiss director Christoph Marthaler, everything, as far as theatrical matters, seems mined from the most intimate reading of the music. These are fine details, apparently congruous but always justified by the musical design or the libretto. A remark of Berg's, in his Practical Directions for the Study of Wozzeck (1925), seems addressed to Marthaler himself, who follows it to the letter: "The work of the director [manager] requires an exact knowledge of the music. It must clarify the often vague directions of Büchner. For example, in killing Marie, Wozzeck 'plunges the knife -- one time only -- into her neck' (measure 103). One should avoid all additional carnage." Marie's death is so clean and devoid of carnage that one wonders if Wozzeck has given her an injection rather than a stab with the knife.
Conductor Sylvain Cambreling, who is regularly savaged in the press, receives equal praise for his ease with the score. The two leads, Angela Denoke (Marie) and Simon Keenlyside (Wozzeck), are said to sing with precision and rare calm. We can only hope that Gerard Mortier brings this production to his new job at New York City Opera.

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