Monday, May 17, 2010

Les Boulingrin: The Sound of Boredom or Art of Noise?

Les Boulingrin, Opéra Comique Paris, May 16 2010

Musical direction Jean Deroyer
Stage direction Jérôme Deschamps

Des Rillettes  Jean-Sébastien Bou
Boulingrin  Lionel Peintre
Madame Boulingrin  Doris Lamprecht
Félicie  Donatienne Michel-Dansac

Klangforum Wien

Les Boulingrin is the name of an opera created last week [May 12, 2010] at the Opéra Comique in Paris. Based on the play by a 19th century French play-writer, Georges CourtelineGeorges Aspergis composed the music. The show was supposed to be extra interesting because of the Klagenforum Wien taking part in the project -- inviting them was actually a clever trick by the house's management.

To be honest, I didn't plan to go and see the show because of an interview with the composer I listened. Aspergis, instead of presenting his own work,  spoke about all the little adjustements he'd made to fit well with the intentions of the stage director  (sic!)-- the marvelous, wonderful, ... Jérôme Deschamps. OK, it would've sounded just weird if you didn't know that Mr. Dechamps is also the Artistic director and manager of Opéra Comique...

For some reason I  changed my mind yesterday: I thought it was only 1 hour 15 minutes long, it was the Sunday matinee show, and in any case Klagenforum was worth a go. The risk factor was relatively low, so I go. Plus I got to buy a reasonably cheap ticket - so it's all fine.

Now, since it's a contemporary work you would immediately ask what's the music like.  If you remember those ingenious piano improvisation on the rhythms of the Katie Couric's interview with Sarah Palin, then to get a clue of this opera you just need to multiply that by 75 in duration and instead of piano, take an orchestra of 10.  I believe this summarizes the musical quality of the show very well.
To remind you of that famous Palin-song, here is the YT video [posted by salingandmusic]

To avoid the risk of inexorable boredom of such a music after 20 minutes of listening, they decided to diversify the sounds as: (a) in addition to dialogs, other noises were "musicized" as well [such as the sound of the boiling water, the friction between the towel and the window one tries to clean, etc], (b) different instruments are combined to break the monotony and to give some kind of depth to the orchestration part, (c) the actors/singer would occasionally add a high note too.

The play/libretto is a comedy that involves a couple of bourgeois, Les Boulengrin, who are rich and bored. They try to break their boredom by playing with Des Rillettes, a man who --under the excuse of wanting to seduce the house's servant Félicie-- wanted to be in their house to enjoy good food and good wine. They will use and abuse him to sort out all sorts of marital problems between the two. When he realizes the trouble he put himself in, Des Rillettes tries in vain to escape.  He even gets wounded by a shot-gun... The whole crazy game ends by Les Boulengrin setting their house on fire (fun arising from frustrations of a bored rich couple of bourgeois). At the end they offer a coup of champagne to Des Rillettes...

Orchestration must be very tough as an impeccable timing is of utmost importance: the actors and the orchestra must be perfectly synchronized with the text, a job that requires 100% focus by everyone and especially of the conductor.  Jean Deroyer once again did an excellent job [he was wonderful in L'amour coupable I blogged about recently], but a big part of the success is certainly due to the awesomeness of Klagenforum Wien (percussionist was literally extraordinary).

Jean Deroyer is proud of the job he did in Les Boulingrin

With all that being said, the concept fail to breathe as an opera. A fast paced action never takes off musically; the structure remains at the level of an endless series of recitatives, and after about 45 minutes the boredom definitely kicks in. After about an hour it all becomes "irrelevant": irrelevant to music, to theater, to life, to everything...  [to see a video trailer for this show, click on "Extrait video" on this page]

Comique was particularly pretty on the sunny Sunday afternoon

I regret once again that a sensational opera Massacre by Wolfgang Mitterer -- very contemporary, very witty, very exploratory/visionary, work-- which I recently blogged about , didn't find its way to one of the opera houses in Paris. It would be far more poignant and more relevant to life at many levels than this work by Aspergis...

Funny detail I only noticed this Sunday. When you're turned face to the theater, on your left there's a nice white building called Hotel Favart

where you see a plaque saying that Francisco Goya lived in this house in 1824. Paris, Paris...
Never ending surprises of "hidden sites".

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