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Summer Opera: "Orfeo" with Le Concert d’Astrée

We at Ionarts I wish all of our American readers a restful Memorial Day. We I take a moment to thank all the men and women who, when asked to do terrible things for our country's sake, have responded with courage and selflessness. I believe that our duty as civilians is to make sure they do not risk their lives for an unjust cause.

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Claudio Monteverdi, L'Orfeo, Ian Bostridge, Patrizia Ciofi, Natalie Dessay, Véronique Gens, Paul Agnew, Le Concert d’Astrée, Emmanuelle Haïm (released on April 6, 2004)
The first production I mentioned in Opera in the Summer 2006 was a new version of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, an opera I love by a composer whose operas have received a lot of productions in the last few years. (Not in Washington, mind you, I mean civilized places. Washington National Opera has avoided Monteverdi since 1987.) French conductor Emmanuelle Haïm led her Baroque music ensemble, Le Concert d'Astrée, in four performances in the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris earlier this month. The group recorded this opera a couple years ago, with Ian Bostridge, Patrizia Ciofi, and Natalie Dessay, along with some of the regular early music names, although the singing personnel at the Châtelet was completely different. For some reason, none of the French dailies reviewed this performance (including Le Figaro and Le Monde), but we can always count on the bloggers. Caroline Alexander published a review (L’Orfeo: Le baroque entre hip hop et Vespa, May 19) at (my translation):
La musica, pivotal divinity in Claudio Monteverdi's L’Orfeo, rises up in a sort of square box suspended in emptiness. In a grand costume, grenadine velours gown, embroidered, with jewels and brown curls carefully arranged down her front. While she sings of Orfeo's destiny, the prologue of what is normally called the first opera in music history -- which is not precisely correct but also not completely in error -- with her image expanded on a giant screen, she moves her back and her rounded hands dance a sorceress's ballet around the actual person floating on her cushion. A bluish light bathes the beginning of the first act: a city square with open sky, motor scooters and Vespas around which a group of young people congregates, dressed like you and me, twenty years old. The sounds that rise from the orchestra pit -- lutes, theorbos, harps, viols, cornetti, and sackbuts -- are pure Baroque. The contrast is one of smiling freshness. [...]

Orfeo, Théâtre du Châtelet, production by Opéra de Lille, photograph by M. N. RobertThe Italian man of the theater Giorgio Barberio Corsetti creates a mixture of genres, times, spaces, and techniques. Video often provides him the unifying thread, like those sauces that chefs use to adjust the ingredients of a dish. He films the actors, the singers, in vast, intimate scenes and choreographed movements, he makes their images float, in all poses, on the horizontal or upside down. Dreamlike reflections of actions that are unfolding on the stage... Other effects of transposition are less fortunate. Inside Hell, Proserpina and Pluto are transformed into a middle class couple glued in front of their television, the three spirits in flesh-colored leotards (they all look naked) make little cakes for them that look like white stones. Elsewhere those stones will serve, as in Le Petit Poucet [Tom Thumb], as a way to show Eurydice the way to go, behind Orfeo, to try to go back to the surface. This is the eternal problem of these radical shifts, which always run into trouble along the way -- most often, in the second half of the story -- because of some insurmountable obstacle, a detail that belongs in the original era and will not or cannot be changed.
Le Concert d’Astrée is six years old now, prestigious enough to have been invited for a residency with the Opéra de Lille. This model -- inviting a Baroque performance ensemble to produce Baroque operas regularly in a mainstream opera theater -- is becoming the norm in Europe, and I hope it catches on in the United States. This production will travel to the Théâtre Municipal de Colmar (June 9 and 11), the Théâtre de la Sinne de Mulhouse (June 17, 19, and 21), and the Opéra du Rhin in Strasbourg (June 27 and 29, July 1 and 3), so there may be more reviews next month.


george pieler said...

Charles I personally have no quarrel with political commentary, and surely you as Mr. Ionarts are free to comment here as you like on anything whatsoever. WHEN however you introduce said commentary as from "we at Ionarts" you implicate the entire Ionarts Team, and (while I prefer to keep my views on the underlying topic to myself) I don't particularly wish to be associated with Mr. Hersh in any way, shape, or form. Surely if you assert a right to state an "Ionarts position" on a controversial topic you are obliged to clear that with the entire Team ahead of time. For that reason while I strongly associate myself with the tribute-section of your comment, I vigorously dissociate myself, for the record, from your personal view on what may or may not constitute 'just cause'.

Charles T. Downey said...

George, fair enough. Emendation on the way.

george pieler said...

Thanks. And, offline, we might agree more than you's the public nature of the beast, as you understand.

jfl said...

don't worry GP, no one actually thinks of you as part of the "Ionarts Team".