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Pelly's 'Puritani'

Entretien avec Laurent Pelly : I puritani by operadeparis

Stage director Laurent Pelly and his team have created a new production of Bellini's I Puritani, which opened at the Opéra National de Paris last week, the first one there in thirty-five years. Marie-Aude Roux has a report (Des « Puritains » figés dans leur prison de tourelles, November 28) in Le Monde (my translation):
Romantic bel canto, the work's most important element, brings little theatrical realism or dramaturgical progression. Knowing that, to offer to the singers on the immense stage of the Opéra Bastille an almost empty set, without any decorative element to help project the sound even a little...

There is in this an unconscious punishment on the part of the director: though Laurent Pelly is a wise man of the lyric theater, his elegant and painterly set of an ironwork neo-medieval castle has little surface area. It is in this prison of little turrets, spiral staircases, and lancet windows, that Elvira will live out her martyrdom as betrayed lover and her profound madness. Period costumes (a stylized 17th century) and superb lighting on fabric backdrops are not enough to save stereotyped acting direction, which leaves the singers to their bad habits and the crowd scenes to their sea-swell movement.
In the interview on the company's Web site (embedded above), Pelly acknowledges the dramatic challenges, with the hope that the staging would evoke the idea of an "immense cage" in which Elvira is imprisoned.
The singers were varied, according to Roux, with a robust Maria Agresta as Elvira who was "swallowed up in the space," and a steroid-driven tenor in Dmitry Korchak, who sang "with as little lyricism as possible, planting his high notes like a picador." Mariusz Kwiecien was shouty and "not always in control," while the only singer true to the Bellini style was the Giorgio of Michele Pertusi. The production continues through December 19.

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