Tuesday, March 16, 2010

L'Amant jaloux mais bête

It had to happen. Opéra Comique just screwed up their winning streak of excellent shows this year. Last night's premiere of L'Amant Jaloux [The Jealous Lover] is a poor tribute to André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry, a.k.a. French Mozart.

Paris, March 15, 2010:  L'Amant Jaloux, an opera by André Grétry

Musical direction, Jérémie Rhorer
Stage direction, Pierre-Emmanuel Rousseau

Léonore, Magali Léger
Isabelle, Daphné Touchais
Jacinte, Maryline Fallot
Florival, Frédéric Antoun
Don Alonze, Brad Cooper
Don Lopez, Vincent Billier

Le Cercle de l’Harmonie

Yesterday, a bummer: in the morning we learned that Diana Damrau was ill and had to cancel her Liederabend at  Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Then we found out that her first Lucia at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin next Saturday is canceled too.  I had the tickets for both events...

Good thing in Paris is that in such a situation an aficionado like me can easily find a worthy alternative. Before I fully decided to go to Pleyel and listen to phenomenal Ingo Metzmacher and his Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, I received an e-mail from someone I barely know who offered me a ticket for the premiere of L'Amant Jaloux at Opéra Comique. Ingo is great but here I have an option to have an excellent seat, and it's free ;) Add to that the fact that all three new productions I saw this season at the Opéra Comique were excellent... the choice was clear: Opéra Comique!

Grétry is good -- if you ever get a chance to listen to his Andromaque, please do! A total genius. L'Amant Jaloux is maybe not as good but it's a pretty piece of music too. Together with its  good/fast-paced plot --I thought-- it must be good!

Unfortunately the director decided his production should be cheesy. And cheesy it was!
I understand that when an opera is not well known, you need to let the plot unfold itself in a more straightforward way to the audience. A good director, however, can always find a way to make theater resonate with the people of his time, or at least to give something (style, idea, add-ons...something) to distinguish his from any other production...  Alas, alas, I couldn't notice anything that make this production go slightly beyond the most basic plot. It is intellectually lazy, it is impersonal, it's uninspiring, and the decors remind you of the  shabby shows from the dreaded DVDs filmed in 60's and 70's...

Little by little the show turned into unflattering illustration of what currently plagues a good chunk of the cultural scene in Paris: a new wave of conservativeness that suffocates creativity. Opera seems to be hit hard by this trend.

Instead of trashing this sad show, I'd rather point out its positive element: the singers. There were several fine singing moments, especially from Frédéric Antoun (excellent), but also from Magali Léger. The others were good too but special props should go to Brad Cooper -- who copes very well with French dialogs. ;)

Here is a presentation video of this production:

A well known aria from this opera sung by Roberto Alagna last year in Versailles:


  1. It is shame if, as you say, the opera scene in Paris is becoming weighed down with a new conservative style. Its needs to be presented in new and exciting ways to attract new fans, have you seen any examples of breakthrough, more modern productions in Paris?

  2. Hi Rosie! Yes yes, Paris is big and you can always find good & modern shows.

    BUT a vast majority of big/expensive productions are what I call a straightforward entertainment, i.e. require zero mental effort from the spectator.

    So far only Opera Comique kept a good level of creativity in their productions; this Amant Jaloux is (hopefully) an exception.

    This is a new trend: only a year ago there were several excellent/challenging productions at the Paris Opera, but with the new intendant that creative side died. The other opera houses follow the trend, and the crowd of middle-aged folks [who instead of sitting at home watching TV prefer to see the same thing in theater] seem to enjoy it.

    Even Das Rheingold (currently at Opera Bastille) --which I think is a good production-- does not push the envelope. Everything is just "too nice", too glossy, too... - if you see what I mean.


  3. Je dirais plutôt que c'est bien typique de l'état d'esprit de l'Opéra-Comique depuis l'arrivée de Deschamps (même si, certes, ce n'était pas mieux avant!). Tu te souviens de L'Etoile? C'était déjà navrant!

  4. Oui c'est vrai, mais il y avait quelques belles réussites l'année passée.

    Cette année, vu que l'ONP est une ruine artistique, tous les 3 beaux spectacles de l'OC ont pratiquement sauvé la première moitié de la saison opératique 2009-2010 à Paris.