Friday, February 18, 2011

The Fairy Queen at Cité-μ

The Fairy Queen, Cité de la Musique in Paris, February 15 2011

Philip Pickett ..... conducting
Mauricio Garcia Lozano ..... director

Joanne Lunn ..... soprano
Dana Marbach ..... soprano
Faye Newton ..... soprano
Christopher Robson ..... countertenor
Tim Travers-Brown .... countertenor
Ed Lyon ..... tenor
Joseph Cornwell ..... tenor
Michael George ..... bass-baritone
Simon Grant ..... bass-baritone

New London Consort

I love The Fairy Queen. The last year's production staged by Jonathan Kent at Opéra Comique in Paris, with Les Arts Flo and W. Christie, in addition to a magnificent set of singers and actors, was one of my dearest shows, and certainly the dearest in baroque. That show managed to make ever closer a contact with Shakespeare, but kept the parallel stories alive which were obvious departures from A Midsummer Night's Dream, yet highly relatable to the modern British culture. That show succeeded in annihilating the often annoying element of "much-too-sweetness" that often kills monotonous baroque operas.

What is an extra quality of this opera to my tastes is that it can be shaped in many different ways and every new production looks and sounds different. Even in concert it is always a beautifully sounding music, with English sounding perfectly fitting to a music, keeping the soothly sound in harmony with lyrics. No composer after Purcell succeeded to create that perfect match.

Back to this particular show: This was supposed to be The Fairy Queen in concert, performed by more-or-less the same group of musicians who performed Acis and Galatea in the same venue last year, but in the end it turned out to be a half-staged production ["half" is to to say that no decors were provided], crafted cleverly and differently from what we're used to see with this opera. I liked the audacity part very much.

Since the video is available, I won't go into the story-line that is proposed here, nor I would discuss the participation of the acrobats, but would like to comment on the attempt to reconcile the baroque music with those surreal moments when we feel too tired with our routinely life and ready to leave everything. That is maybe more often present in the mind of people of our time, and Purcell's cure for that is "love": give and take more of it to make your life more beautiful. I know it is a cliché, but life is often a disappointing mosaic of clichés. In this production this underlying thread is non-trivially planted in the story and the combination of modern acrobatic dance, singing actors, beautiful music made the evening special.

I guess with a little more rehearsing time this would have diminish occasional perception of the show as being amateurish, but since I always appreciate ideas more, even the slightest departure from usual, entertaining, brain-softening show is very welcome.

Ed Lyon was there and he was of course he dominated the show. I know I am repeating myself, but that man simply has that XXL-talent that other singers in this repertoire simply don't have. It's the color of his voice, the volume, a perfect dosage of expressiveness (a bit more would be too much, a bit less would spoil it), and it all sounds so easy.  Bless him! Joanne Lunn made a strong impression too, with a magnificently sung her last aria. Another particularly beautifully sounding soprano to keep in mind is Faye Newton. Other singers were very good too.

The orchestra was OK, but not close to the unison they showed last year in a performance of Acis and Galatea. Under-rehearsed?!  In any case, you are free to disagree with me after seeing the show yourself -- the video is embedded below.

Ah yes, just not to forget to mention once again how I love the auditorium of La cité de la Musique, its wonderful acoustics, and the whole building that breaths love for music -- like no other building I know.

A few CC pics:

Philip Pickett and New London Consort

Joseph Cornwell, Faye Newton, Ed Lyon, and Joanne Lunn

Joanne Lunn and Ed Lyon

and the promised video (available for free until 

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