Monday, July 5, 2010

We will barock you (3): Semele at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

Semele,  Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (TCE), July 2, 2010

 Wallace, Croft, De Niese, Rousset, Genaux, Rose and Debono

Christophe Rousset conductor
David McVicar director

Richard Croft Jupiter
Peter Rose  Cadmus/Somnus
Danielle De Niese  Semele
Vivica Genaux  Juno/Ino
Jaël Azzaretti  Iris
Stephen Wallace  Athamas
Claire Debono  Cupid
Sébastien Droy  Apollo

This is the revival of the David McVicar's production of Semele mounted for the first time in 2004 at the same Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. David came to supervise the revival and it shows the touch of the man of theater: he adapted the direction of actors to the new singers, who were all really wonderfull. 
David McVicar and Danielle DeNiese at rehearsals
As you might have already noticed, I'm not crazy about baroque operas but I virtually never skip one when it's given somewhere near me :) There are always some musically beautiful episodes in each of these operas. I also admit there is something soft and tender about them, but one should not forget that the plots are often (always?) too far fetched to make me swallow 4 hours of too repetitive music. On the long run it can easily become monotonous which is why --probably more than in other repertoires-- it is essential to have actors and singers with pronounced interpretative skills, who will be capable to keep the audience awake. 
 Vivica Genaux
If you don't know much about Semele, please read a note on Wiki or a synopsis here.
The all white sets for this show are simple: the semi-oval space is surrounded by the castle-looking structure. In the center would appear a bed where quite a bit of action actually takes place. ;) 
 The light designer did a great job. He explored the whiteness of the stage to colorfully distinguish the action in which mortals participate from the one with divinities. While that admittedly prevents the boredom to set in, this production is based on good direction of actors. The show is rather static but McVicar  the interaction among characters is fundamental, and it works! For those who believe his shows can be revived without him being there to supervise are so dead wrong! He particularly explored the charisma of Danielle De Niese, and also of Vivica Genaux. These two were astounding throughout the show. 
 Danielle DeNiese  

Danielle is a natural born actress, a beautiful woman with charisma that catches everyone's eye. She literally defines the space she occupies, and then naturally drives the action around her. Vivica is a very good match to her. If Danielle scenically has an edge on Vivica, I think it's fair to say that Vivica compensate it by a superb singing. The alchemy of these two works marvelously well, and the show without them would definitely be very different. Now you add Richard Croft into the mix -- yes, Richard Croft who --to me!-- is the best mozartian tenor ever, and you get a guarantee for a very pleasant operatic evening. That man is a living singing lesson!
 Richard Croft
Smaller roles were wonderful too: Peter Rose more than excellent, and always very cool in baroque, Claire Debono. The only less impressive member of the cast was Stephen Wallace. 

Further bonus to this very good show was the orchestra, Les Talens Lyriques lead by their "big boss" Christophe Rousset. The cast of native speakers was of course perfectly comprehensible but I must say the English in Semele doesn't soothe your ears the way Purcell's operas do [You didn't buy The Fairy Queen DVD?! You should :) ].

 Peter Rose 

 Claire Debono
  Danielle DeNiese, Christophe Rousset and Vivica Genaux

This opera is full of tunes. I found a few of videos from the previous run of this production at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées: 
One famous tune sung by Danielle De Niese
and another one by Joyce DiDonato


See also this short  video with the current cast!

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