Thursday, March 4, 2010

Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet

was the first European woman in science. She was physicist & mathematician, also known for her translations of many philosophical works from Greek and Latin, and in particular for her translation of Principia Mathematica to French. At the same time, she was a very eccentric woman for her time  (she lived between 1706 and 1749). She was an amateur opera singer & actress, she played the harpsichord..., transgressed the rules of "proper female conduct" by practicing the horse-riding  and  fencing.... To that add the fact that she had many lovers, the most famous being Voltaire (who gave her the nickname  Émilie du Châtelet which is also the name of this new opera.)

Several fragments of life of this larger-than-life lady are subject of the new opera by Kaija Saariaho, the Finnish composer who lives and creates in Paris and whose L'amour de loin we actually liked. Her librettist, Amin Maalouf, prepared the new work, she composed the musics, François Girard (who will direct the new production of Parsifal next year in Lyon, which will then travel to the Met in 2012) produced the show, and a good orchestra conducted by one of our fav maestros, Kazushi Ono premiered  Émilie at  Opéra de Lyon, last Monday, March 1. Karita Mattila, for whom Kaija composed this 80 mins long opera-monologue, was singing.

Photo by Heidi Piiroinen

Critics seem to be quite ambivalent in assessing whether or not they liked it, but they don't hide that they were a bit bored... Ahem, it maybe takes more than one listening to make one's mind up? Here is what the reviewers in FT, Telegraph, and Le Monde had to say. 
The same opera will be presented next month at DNO in Amsterdam. Next year it should be performed at Barbican in London, somewhere in Lisbon too (?), and later on --July 2012-- at Opéra-Comique in Paris. 

If you're interested to listen to Émilie, you can catch it on France Musique, on Monday March 29 at 8:00 pm (CET).  Meanwhile you can read the first hand impressions on David's blog, and much more positive view on Musica Sola. If you don't read French, Google does it for you.

To get a taste of what to expect from the Saariaho-Mattila combination, see this YT video [posted by Operalou], a result of their previous collaboration which involved also Esa-Pekka Salonen:

1 comment:

  1. Not next month - this week. Starting this Thursday, with two more performances on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 March.

    There doesn't seem to be much of a risk of any of them selling out before the student standby option kicks in, either. Colour me chuffed.