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What Mortier Hath Wrought

Gerard MortierYou will recall the uproar noted here after the surprise appointment of Gerard Mortier as the new director of the New York City Opera. American opera quickly got a whole lot more interesting. To have an idea of what Mortier is doing in Paris, here are some of the details on the new season at the Opéra national de Paris, which was announced on March 15. This information comes from an article (Nouvelles productions à l'Opéra de Paris, March 22) in Le Monde, authored jointly by Renaud Machart and Marie-Aude Roux (my translation and links added):

Eight new fully operatic productions were announced, dominated by works of the 20th or 21st centuries: Paul Dukas's Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (September 13 to October 6, directed by Anna Viebrock), Richard Wagner's Tannhaüser (December 6 to 30, staging by Robert Carsen), Giuseppe Verdi's Luisa Miller (February 14 to March 12, staging by Gilbert Deflo), Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (March 3 to 24, staging by Luc Bondy), Richard Wagner's Parsifal (March 4 to 23, staging by Krzysztof Warlikowski), Alban Berg's Wozzeck (March 29 to April 19, staging by Christoph Marthaler), Luigi Dallapicolla's The Prisoner (April 10 to May 6, staging by Luis Pasqual), and a world premiere commission by the Opéra de Paris, from Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas, Melancholia (June 9 to 27, staging by Stanislas Nordey).

We note the return of old productions by Robert Carsen, a favorite of the Hugues Gall era, which are among his most successful (notably, Handel's Alcina and Richard Strauss's Capriccio), and the appearance, much anticipated and somewhat late in coming -- she has been a permanent guest of the Metropolitan Opera in New York for the last few seasons -- of the star soprano Anna Netrebko [in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, May 24 to June 15]. On the other hand, we observe the absence of Renée Fleming in the principal role of Capriccio -- she has not been invited to the Opéra de Paris since M. Mortier's nomination -- and the appearance at only two productions (Ariane et Barbe-bleue and Wozzeck) of Sylvain Cambreling, the conductor criticized by the Opéra orchestra, the audience, and critics. M. Mortier has tried, unsuccessfully, to make him the establishment's official music director. [Sylvain Cambreling and Gerard Mortier, it should be noted, are domestic partners.]
Among the returning productions, I would also note Paul Hindemith's Cardillac (January 29 to February 16), and especially the Robert Wilson staging of Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten, with Christine Brewer (!) as the Dyer's wife (January 21 to February 10). The Carsen Capriccio was a stupendous experience in 2004, with La Fleming.

A few years ago, Mortier was planning a rotating music directorship for the Opéra de Paris, in which the podium duties would be split among seven alternating conductors. Most of the conductors on his list will not appear next season, and conductors appear to be something of a problem. The article also states that Kent Nagano, Vladimir Jurowsky, Christoph von Dohnanyi will not return. Esa-Pekka Salonen has announced that he will not return to Paris because of the constant threat of disruptive strikes among the personnel. (You may recall that, last year at about this time, strikes forced the delayed premiere of Adriana Mater, which Salonen conducted.) Most disappointing, the article reports that Mortier has canceled several upcoming productions to be conducted by Marc Minkowski. That is a mistake.

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