Friday, May 14, 2010

New Star in Berlin - L’étoile by Chabrier

Next Sunday, May 16,  will open a new production of L'étoile, a fun opera by Emmanuel Chabrier, at the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin. The show is produced by Dale larger-than-life Duesing, the cast includes Magdalena Kozena and looks very good, and the Staatskapelle will be conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Photos from one of the dress rehearsals are already available on their website.
I hope to be able to see one of the total of 5 shows in this run.

Magdalena Kozena as Lazuli

Recently there were several productions of this opera in Europe and in the US, of which the worst  must have been the one presented at Opéra Comique in Paris [this is very often the case with French operas, i.e. they are much better produced outside of France (Les Contes d'Hoffmann is a notable exception!)]. Thus my hope that the show in Berlin will be much better than the thing presented in Paris.

Chabrier was a passionate and courageous man. He worked like a state employee and only when he turned 39 he quit the job to devote his life to musics, to composing. Many say he made that decision after having discovered the music by Wagner.

His music is extremely eclectic and you cannot say to know his style if you listened to 2 or 3 representative works. His music is influenced by the folkloric rhythms, thus Espana Rhapsody that you all most probably know,  Joyeuse Marche that Stravinsky liked a lot (in fact, he liked the most the Chabrier's Slavonic dance), and the works making reference to Wagner and Germany.  

He lived and worked in Paris but since he was born in Auvergne he was never really accepted by the parisian bourgeoisie. By reaction he composed many musical pages inspired by the sounds from his native Auvergne.  In my humble opinion, the best music he composed was 10 Pièces pittoresques for piano, four of which he later adapted for the orchestra and those four are known as Suite Pastorale. [ Concerning his piano works, there is an excellent  3-CD-set by Alexandre Tharaud.]

If he wasn't accepted by the bourgeoisie, he was artistically and intellectually appreciated and accepted among the Parnassiens as well as by the other cultural movements in Paris at the end of the 19th century. He was a good friend with Renoir, Monet and especially with Manet. (If you listen to his music and see the paintings of these 3 artists, you will see the connection)

His music is probably richer to read than to listen to, which is why the musicians used to love it more than the public. In spite of the evident eclecticism in his creations, there was however something special.  Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel and Poulenc were full of admiration for Chabrier's work. If you listen to Impromptu  by Chabrier, you'll understand where the musical inspiration to Debussy came from.

L’étoile is an opera buffa -- no mad scenes, no dead bodies -- it's like a coup of champagne. A short synopsis is available on Wiki, and the full libretto can be found here (both in English and in French). Note that the lyrics for some of the songs in this opera were written by Paul Verlaine.

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