Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fidelio in Tours: excellent Delunsch, Wilde and Sidhom

Fidelio, Opéra de Tours, October 17 2010

Jean-Yves Ossonce ..... conductor
Marion Wassermann ..... director

Mireille Delunsch ..... Leonore
Sabine Revault d'Allonnes ..... Marzeline
Jean-Francis Monvoisin ..... Florestan
Scott Wilde ..... Rocco
Peter Sidhom ..... Don Pizzaro
Stanislas de Barbeyrac ..... Jacquino
Ronan Nédélec ..... Don Fernando

Orchestre Symphonique Région Centre-Tours
Chorus of Opéra de Tours

A new production of Fidelio was one of the reasons for this (unexpected) trip to Tours -- a beautiful city in the heart of France! Marion Wassermann, production director, made a splash a few years ago at the Greek National Opera in Athens where she was obliged to cut out the scene of two men kissing after the final dress rehearsal of Rusalka. That obviously lead to a major scandal opposing the gay activists to the members of the orchestra. At the same time the incident attracted world's attention to the work of Marion Wassermann.

Her Fidelio is a neat piece of work, cleverly set in an oppressive regime in which the reigning atmosphere is that of a prisoners' camp. The costumes refer to the 19th century period and the locals could connect it to the post-revolutionary period in the prisons of Tours. On the stage you basically see a muddy square area populated by more than 40 people standing, sitting or sleeping. Rocco is one of the prisoners, in charge for discipline of the others. Don Pizzaro is a ruler who occasionally shows up in the camp to randomly execute the civilians and spread a fear among people. The story from libretto then evolves smoothly in this frame and the basic idea works very well.

In Act-2, when Don Pizzaro discovers that Fidelio is in fact Leonore, he stabs Leonore to death and from that point on the relation between Leonore and Florestan becomes fictitious: even though they are separated by her death, their love for each other and their symbolic struggle for freedom transcend the world they live in and eventually become a symbol of fight for freedom of the entire nation.

I thought this astute solution to deal with this famously difficult libretto was helpful to make a show simple, clean, and straightforward. My problem was that for some reason [was it a lack of rehearsal time, or something else?] the actors are directed minimally and the show soon becomes too static for the spectators who are not too familiar with the music, and whose attention easily gets easily saturated. A bit more direction on interaction among characters would drastically change the overall impression.

As for the orchestra, I thought they were very good (if we forget a couple of minor cracks in the brass section), although the tempi chosen by Jean-Yves Ossonce at the beginning of the opera were far too fast to appreciate the depth of the score. Later on he regained the composure, slowed down the pace and returned to what we could call  the "standard timings".

The most interesting thing in this show to me was Mireille Delunsch who made her role debut as Leonore. As usual, she was remarkable and not only because she has that rare capacity and intelligence to sing the role in her own way, but also because her voice is rock solid and the volume is impeccable to match the level of two formidable male singers she faced on the stage, namely Scott Wilde and Peter Sidhom (phenomenal Alberich in this year's Rheingold in Paris). Scott Wilde suffered a bit the fast tempi by the conductor at the beginning of the show but the warmth of his timbre and a comforting effect of his voice on the audience was more than a pleasant surprise for me. He would not have a problem to fill up a much larger auditorium than this cute theater in Tours. Sidhom is awesome: he knows how to vocally sculpt any villain character and backs that by his uncommonly engaging acting. Finally, I should mention a good young & promising tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac whose Jacquino was absolutely flawless.

In summary, this was a surprisingly high quality level that you don't see very often in venues that are much bigger than this one in Tours. With a tad more work on actors to make the action more lively, this show would've been a total winner.

This Fidelio, after its three shows in Tours, will travel to Dijon where it will be presented later next year. I found a short YT-video made for a local TV:

and the following production photos (all © F.Berthon):

Mireille Delunsch as Fidelio

Jean-Francis Monvoisin and Mireille Delunsch as Florestan and Leonora

Peter Sidhom + Sabine Revault d'Allonnes and Scott Wilde

If you can visit this city and its opera please do! It is enchanting: its history, its castles, its architectural beauty, its proximity to Da Vinci's Amboise... and it's only 1h10 by TGV from Paris.

The Tours' opera house is in the city center

It is a small "jewelery box" which feels like a museum and you almost feel afraid to touch anything not to damage it...
Its staircase is particularly beautiful. It looks like taken out from one of the sketches by  Escher:

Staircase from above

Staircase from below

During intermissions the theater's atrium is the place where you may have an incredibly cheap flute of excellent champagne (3,5€!), enjoy the beauty of its historic interior or a poetic look through its windows

I am a self-declared king of typos, but I couldn't resist spotting a major mistake on the framed pictures from the previous productions at Opéra de Tours [which decorate the walls in the theater's hallways]:

C'est grave ;)

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