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Festival Musica in Strasbourg

While Renaud Machart came to New York to write about the Metropolitan Opera's opening night snafu with its new high-tech Ring cycle, the other critic from Le Monde, Marie-Aude Roux, was in Strasbourg. The Festival Musica there included a production of the recent opera by Peter Eötvös, Love and Other Demons, based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez, presented at the Opéra national du Rhin. (The Festival also included performances of other contemporary operas, including Giorgio Battistelli's Richard III, Thomas Adès's The Tempest, Bruno Mantovani's L'Autre côté, and Wolfgang Rihm's Jakob Lenz, as well as several works by Austrian composer and organist Wolfgang Mitterer.) Here is a bit of what she had to say about it in her review (Peter Eötvös met en musique un opéra sur l'exorcisme, l'amour et le diable, September 28) for Le Monde (my translation):
We were looking forward to this production from the Glyndebourne Festival, where it was premiered on August 10, 2008, under the baton of the house's music director, Vladimir Jurowski. We still expected more from the composer of Three Sisters, Angels in America, even Le Balcon or Lady Sarashina. The Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, admitted after the premiere on September 25, "not knowing Peter Eötvös, but the surprise is that much better." The Hungarian composer is however far from unknown in France, where he served, from 1979 to 1991, as the music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, succeeding its founder, Pierre Boulez. For the past ten years, he has gained entrance to the select company of opera composers, in the manner of Philippe Boesmans, Salvatore Sciarrino, John Adams, and in a more fragmentary way, Pascal Dusapin.

This opera tells the story of a young 12-year-old marquise, bitten by "a gray dog with a full moon on its forehead" and suspected of being possessed by the devil. In turn she possesses the priest who is supposed to exorcise her and who falls in love with her. What is heard reveals a craftsmanship at the highest level. It plays with all forms of vocal writing, from cries to "bel canto" (according to Eötvös), from Gregorian chant to atomizations of Scarlatti. It is also plays with a particularly well-crafted orchestration of rainbow sound-colors, especially in slow passages of great sensuality, that the conducting of Eötvös himself, at the podium of the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg, renders even more clear so much did he seem to sculpt the score in real time.
For all her admiration of the craftsmanship, Roux found the opera and its production a little prosaic, noting that perhaps the composer fell prey to the Glyndebourne atmosphere, bringing together "all the ingredients for the perfect operatic picnic basket, spiced with avant-garde compositional techniques."

1 comment:

jfl said...

"Love & Other Demons" is cute, catchy enough... I enjoyed a performance of it last year. It is "The Tragedy of the Devil" that is just dreadful. I think it was so awful, I didn't even write about the premiere. Ostermaier should have been quartered for the crappy libretto.