Thursday, June 3, 2010

Così fan tutte - euh, ça passe

Così fan tutte, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (TCE), Paris, June 2, 2010

Ceiling at the TCE

Jean-Claude Malgoire   conductor
Pierre Constant   director

Rachel Nicholls   Fiordiligi
Lina Markeby   Dorabella
Robert Getchell   Ferrando
Joan Martín-Royo   Guglielmo
Nicolas Rivenq   Don Alfonso
Anne-Catherine Gillet   Despina

One thing you must admire in France is that the fanbase of the opera is big. You rarely see half-empty halls like in Italy or even in Germany. People are still passionate about the opera and are always keen to talk about what side of any given show they liked or didn't like. To see a few free seats for an opera by Mozart in one of the best theaters, such as Théâtre des Champs-Élysées [the capacity of which is 1905 seats] on the night of the premiere, is very weird.

Jean-Claude Malgoire is a very well known personality in France, first as a musician, then a conductor, and also because of his impact on the lyric/operatic world in France. Since many years he established his musical workshop in Tourcoing (a small town in the North of France) where --surrounded by his collaborators-- he's been producing operas that used to be very appreciated at the international level. He recorded dozens of remarkable CD's and attracted many young people to become passionate about classical music and opera in particular. The repertoire his workshop explored was very eclectic, but his most important influence was in reviving the ancient music and baroque.

Recently, Malgoire came with his orchestra and singers to perform Don Pasquale in concert at the TCE and the critics were very bad, including those who admire Malgoire and his work. Maybe that was a reason why this Cosi fan tutte was not really embraced with enthusiasm, prior to the last night's premiere.

Not to be unpleasant  dissecting this shabby production I'd rather avoid making a detailed review of what was shown last night. If the first act was OK-ish [in spite of ultra-traditionally staged action, the intrigue flew smoothly and the action was coherent with no exaggerated acting at all], the second act was scenically atrocious. Only after the show I read in the programme that this production was premiered 15 years ago in Lille and then in Tourcoing, which perhaps partly explains the outdated appearance of the show today. Why did the TCE artistic management opted to bring this show to their prestigious house is beyond me... Even more astonishing was that Constant (the director) did not get any boos at the curtain calls. (Maybe I should start doing what I always avoided to [to boo]?)

Apart from the painfully old-fashioned staging, the orchestra was far from the level we're used to in Paris. The cords were subdued, pale  -- they never took off and the sound was dominated by the brass section and percussions -- I leave it to you to imagine what that sounds like in Mozart... The tempi too were disturbing to me, but that may be the conductor's choice (?)

There is a silver lining, however: the singers. They were all very-very good. I also found my little reason to get enthusiastic about: Rachel Nicholls. It was the first time for me to see or listen to her and she was "delicious". Her voice is maybe too big for Mozart, but it's round, healthy, and like I just said - BIG. I guess she could be troubled with gravi, but for Fiordiligi she didn't need to dig too low, and she was absolutely brilliant. Per pieta was for 5-stars, as far as I'm concerned, and not only because she sang it with full determination and to gave her all, because she successfully tamed her big voice to project it marvelously when needed, but also because she interpreted it in her own way -- definitely different from what I've heard before (it's darker, if you get what I mean). BRAVA!
All the other singers [ Lina Markeby, Joan Martín-Royo, Anne-Catherine Gillet Robert Getchell, and Nicolas Rivenq] were maybe not as big as Rachel, but they were all really good too.

I took only a few pics at the CCalls  [with my phone which explains their lousy quality]

Malgoire, Nicholls, Getchell, Martin-Royo, Rivenq

Gillet, ??, Markeby, Constant, Malgoire, Nicholls, Getchell, Martin-Royo, Rivenq

There is also a small video-clip prepared for the France3 TV, which may give you a vague idea of how it all looks like

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