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Les Journaux

Music and art news from the European press.

The Musée d'Orsay has new leadership, as its president, Serge Lemoine, has reached the age of retirement. According to an article by Emmanuel de Roux (Nouvelle ère au Musée d'Orsay avec l'arrivée de Guy Cogeval, February 1) in Le Monde, 52-year-old Guy Cogeval, formerly director of the Musée des beaux-arts in Montréal, will take over. During Lemoine's tenure, visitorship has risen from 1.7 million visitors (2001) to 3.2 million (2007) as have donations, but as a historian principally of 20th-century art he was not well received among the museum's curators. Watch out for a return to the past, as Cogeval is much more a traditional 19th-century person. He is quoted saying, "It is the Impressionists, more than Racine or Poussin, who remain the best ambassadors of French culture, from Tierra del Fuego to Japan." Meaning? That's where the cash is.

Barbara Hendricks, sopranoFor the fourth consecutive year, soprano Barbara Hendricks (pictured) was invited to take part in the Folle Journée de Nantes (January 30 to February 3). Also, as she spoke about in an interview with Marie-Aude Roux (Hendricks : Schubert et moi, January 31) for Le Monde, she has released a new album based on the distribution model of Radiohead. You can download her album Endless Pleasure online -- selections by Purcell and Handel, with the Drottningholms Barockensemble -- through her new private label, and pay what you want to do so.

The Juilliard String Quartet is on the move, giving a concert at the 3e Biennale de quatuors à cordes (Cité de la musique, in Paris) last month, as reviewed by Pierre Gervasoni (Elliott Carter, le loup du quatuor à cordes, January 24) for Le Monde.We will be reviewing a similar program by the Juilliard Quartet (Beethoven, Carter, Verdi) at the National Gallery of Art later this month (February 17, 6:30 pm). Elliott Carter, who will be 100 years old this December, composed a new work for solo viola, Figment IV (about three minutes in duration), for the concert.

When Jérôme Deschamps took over the direction of the Opéra-Comique, he announced that the theater would move away from music theater and back to comic opera, which was its original repertoire, and most interesting from my point of view, toward more Baroque opera. He has made good on that promise by mounting Landi's Il Sant'Alessio last fall and, last month, a new production of Lully's Cadmus et Hermione, as reviewed by Marie-Aude Roux (Lully ressuscité à l'Opéra-Comique, January 24) for Le Monde (my translation):

The gestures of the singers are codified: turning hands upward to evoke heaven, downward for the earth and its passions, placing them on the chest to indicate the heart. The frontal stances and the candlelight bring the singer and spectator closer together but also give a halo of sacred power to these ancient divinities and superhuman heroes, the laudatory allegories of an absolute royal power. If the five-act structure is a direct inheritance from classical tragedy, the prologue is related to the ballet, that court tabloid. Thus, the prologue of Cadmus et Hermione shows Apollo felling the Python, an allegorical representation of Louis XIV, who in 1673 had just declared war on Holland and the Prince of Orange.
Mounted with the help of the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, the production will also be performed in Rouen and Caen. It features another French HIP ensemble I have yet to hear (having missed their Washington concert in 2005), called Le Poème Harmonique, directed by Vincent Dumestre.

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