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Die Feen in Paris

Wagner's first opera, Die Feen, does not get produced all that often, but Jean-Luc Choplin brought it to the Théâtre du Châtelet last weekend, for the first-ever staging of the work in France. Marie-Aude Roux, in her review for Le Monde (A la découverte des "Fées" de Wagner, April 2), called Choplin a "hater of banality, to the point of fearing neither excess or ridicule," and this production certainly seems to fit with that description. Marc Minkowski, the HIP conductor who has been taking regular detours into the nineteenth century, was in the pit. Here is what Roux had to say about the production (my translation):

Jean-Luc Choplin is open about his preference for the kitsch esthetic of the Spanish director Emilio Sagi, who already directed the famous Chanteur de Mexico in shocking pink, from 2006, and the Amadeo Vives zarzuela La Generala, mounted in 2008. To go from there to German Romantic opera? Well, yes, if the impossible love of the prince Arindal and the fairy Ada takes place on the Lido or in a Latin paradise. Feathers and lace, spangles and baubles, the costumes are on the level of a Barbie doll love story, while the set, a disco stage in 1980s style, is truly ugly. All of this at the service of actor direction made by a braindead person, of a disgusting banality.
I think that she may not have liked it. Minkowski did the best he could with what he had, an early Wagner score that is largely derivative of the composer's most important influences, Weber, Marschner, and especially Meyerbeer. According to Roux, the demands of the role of Arindal were beyond the abilities of American tenor William Joyner, but she showered praise on a Berlin-born soprano, Christiane Libor, as Ada: "the young soprano is quite simply a revelation, who is rumored to be in the cast of the Ring cycle planned by Nicolas Joël for the Opéra de Paris in 2011." Libor, who was heard in New York last year in the New York Phil's St. Matthew Passion (but did not overly impress Anthony Tommasini), is a singer to watch.

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