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Les Journaux: Art and Music

Cultural news bits from the European press.

Maurin Picard reports from Vienna about the water and humidity damage to paintings stored in the collection of the Albertina Museum (Scénario catastrophe au Musée de l'Albertina, July 2) for Le Figaro (my translation):

It was a disaster that damaged one of the richest painting collections in Europe. The scenario imagined by Jean-Michel Ribes in his book Musée haut, musée bas, transferred to the screen in 2008 and in which a series of natural disasters strikes a cultural institution, is on the point of becoming reality in Austria. After the heavy rains that hit central Europe over the last few days, the Albertina Museum put out an SOS to save its collection of master paintings. The holdings of the building and its underground floor could no longer be protected from massive infiltrations. Paintings by Dürer, Michelangelo, Picasso, Rembrandt, Klimt, and Schiele are at risk of being damaged by insidious microorganisms, mold and other fungus. Some have already shown some suspicious warping.
This makes me crazy that great art is kept in storage. Paintings are meant to be hung on the wall and viewed. There must be a way to do that. Christian Merlin interviewed Olivier Py (Olivier Py : «À l'opéra, l'œil entend et l'oreille voit», July 3) for Le Figaro about his new production of Mozart's Idomeneo for the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, which as noted earlier this week you can now watch by webcast (my translation):
Your universe is often dark. Will it be like that in Idomeneo, too?

It is dark when I direct dark works. In Lulu or Tales of Hoffmann, the light is put out, there is nothing but sex and death: no possible redemption. When Mozart wrote Idomeneo, he still believed that the world had a future: one has to take seriously that happy ending that is the result of utopian thinking.

What freedom do you leave the singers in your micromanaged stagings?

One has to adore the singers to direct opera. I refute the cliché that singers cannot act. In Aix, Richard Croft, who has the perfect voice for Idomeneo, is an incredible actor, whose economy calls to mind José van Dam. As for Mireille Delunsch, one has only to explain that "soglio" does not mean "soil" but "throne" for her to understand that Electra is not returning to her native land but taking up again her power as queen: her interpretation changes immediately. Their interior energy fascinates me.
That sounds very promising: a director who trusts the work he is directing. Not so promising, the farewell production of Gerard Mortier at the Opéra de Paris was an experimental work entrusted to the young German composer Jörg Widmann and artist Anselm Kiefer. Called Am Anfang (In the beginning), it treats the stage of the Bastille like an art installation, like so much of Kiefer's work a vision of the bombed-out shell of European civilization. Renaud Machart reports (Un rude et faible "Am Anfang" pour fêter les 20 ans de l'Opéra Bastille, July 9) for Le Monde (my translation):
The score, formless and indecisive, barely holds one's attention: its clouds of diffuse sounds, harmonically foggy by the use of microintervals, the few glowing moments (ethereal colors of glass harmonic or accordion) vanish quickly and do not eclipse the regrettable lack of inspiration and individuality of the composer. Widmann tries to have it both ways: an audible Germanic influence (Wagner, Mahler, Berg) on one side, and on the other borrowings from Giacinto Scelsi, the French spectralist composers, or Ligeti. The cocktail has the rancid taste of contemporary music stillborn. One might be impressed that Gerard Mortier chose to leave the Opéra de Paris with a rude piece where there is no singing (only a few female voices, an intermittent chorus angelorum, are heard). But one regrets that that gutsy move was made to the benefit of a score that, to be nice, one would call minor.
Bad review or no, I hope it will be on Arte webcast, too.

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