Orlando Paladino, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, March 19 2012
Jean-Christophe Spinosi ..... conductor
Kamel Ouali ..... director
Nicolas Buffe .... sets & costimes
Nicolas Buffe .... sets & costimes
Kresimir Spicer ..... Orlando
Bruno Taddia ..... Pasquale
Anna Goryachova ..... Alcina
Ekaterina Bakanova ..... Angelica
Joan Martín-Royo ..... Rodomonte
Pascal Charbonneau .... Medoro
Raquel Camarinha ..... Eurilla
David Curry ..... Licone
Adam Palka ..... Caronte
Once you realize that Orlando Paladino by Haydn is basically a musical comedy it becomes understandable that the job to stage the new production of this opera at the Théâtre du Châtelet was confided to Kamel Ouali. He is re;atively well known in France, mostly for his choreographies in various over-the-top TV shows in France, and the flashy musical comedies.
To be honest, at first I cringed when I saw his name next to Orlando Paladino, but on the second thought the idea seemed very good. Why? Kamel Ouali is French but a son of Algerian immigrants, which makes this idea socially great. Despite all the slogans for equality..., opera is still made by and for the white folks, preferably Christians. I could write a whole essay on this topic [e.g. choice of the operas recently produced in Paris, choice of the aged & conservative directors, avoiding to stage the magnificent operas by Thierry Pécou, ...] but I'd rather stay positive and just compliment the folks who run the Théâtre du Châtelet for opting to produce an opera directed by Kamel Ouali.
Kamel is not a theater director, and so we could not expect a fine theatrical action on the stage. He took care of choreography while the basic idea for the visual concept of the whole production came from a fine artist, Nicolas Buffe. Nicolas is clearly in love with all-thing Japanese and he took the main inspiration from the Japanese manga, the picturesque characters from the films by Kurosawa, and at one point even employed Godzilla (this was the funniest moment of the show).
The production team wanted to make the show visually spectacular and they definitely succeeded at it. Here are the sketches for costumes for a few main characters in this opera, prepared by Nicolas Buffe:
All the costumes are opulent and each looks like a piece of art on its own. Visually, it is uplifting, fun, and the show is extremely fast paced. I am not into too much dancing on the stage and I obviously could not appreciate the numerous choreographies but the crowd visibly enjoyed this 100% entertainment.
On the less complimentary side the show lacked a clean dramatic concept, interaction among characters was essentially absent, and the intrigue was (un/intentionally) pushed in the background leaving the visuals to forefront. One soon gets the main intention of the production team: it was supposed to be fun, a feast for your eyes... To me, however, an opera should revolve around the intrigue which this clearly doesn't.
Numerous pop culture references (e.g. video games - Super Mario; fight with the laser-beam swords --like in the Star Wars movies-- another very funny moment of the show) certainly help bringing this opera closer to the audience today, and judging from the reaction of the crowd after the show this was a clean success.
However, my attention span for this kind of no-brainer entertainment is quite short and I was trying to focus on the musical side. I saw this opera only once before (on DVD) and in a sense this was my first 'true' encounter with Haydn's Orlando. It is a fine piece of music, pleasant to listen, even if it does not really reach the level of Mozart operas. Jean-Christophe Spinosi and his orchestra did a truly excellent job. I believe it's only with operas by Rossini that they seriously struggle to deliver their best. Elsewhere, i.e. in the operas by Mozart, Vivaldi and in other-than-Rossini bel-canto repertoire, they are really good. Spinosi was constantly kicking energy to the orchestra, the sound that never fell flat or became amorphous, and his Orlando Paladino was well toned and suitable support to the flashy dynamics on the stage.
The singing quality was homogeneous and to me they were all good. I wouldn't say there was a standout performance, but for the sheer volume of the role, probably the most impressive was Kresimir Spicer -- a tenor who can sing baroque, light lyric operas, but clearly has a potential for attacking the heavier roles too. His timbre is somewhat impersonal, but the voice is rock solid, big, and expressive. Bruno Taddia uses well his moment in this score to show off his vocal dexterity that resembles his interpretation of the Figaro aria from Il barbiere di Siviglia. Other male singers were very good too. Among women I liked the most Raquel Camarinha who you can appreciate in the following video:
Ekaterina Bakanova impressed by all the top notes that she was able to nail almost effortlessly, while Anna Goryachova offered us her luscious mezzo voice in the role of Alcina (she will soon join the Zurich Opera ensemble).
|Rodomonte, Alcina, and Orlando|
|Angelica, Orlando, Eurilla, Pasquale, Licone|
|Kresimir Spicer, Raquel Camarinha, Bruno Tadia|
|Maestro Spinozi between Bakanova and Camarinha|
An excerpt from the show:
and probably even better captured in the short video available on the France3-TV website.