Sunday, February 8, 2015

Renaissance of the Paris Opera?

After the years of appalling mediocrity and catastrophic productions presented at the Paris
Opera, the new artistic direction --lead by the formidable Stéphane Lissner-- is proposing
a fantastic program for their first season (2015-2016) which is likely to revive our passion
for opera in Paris that was sadly reduced to a few OKish productions presented at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées during the past several years.

What new productions?

Moses und Aron, directed by Romeo Castellucci, the same Romeo who produced several theater productions in Paris in the past several years  --including a festival dedicated to his vision
of theater-- all of which were met with a rare intellectual enthusiasm, a phenomenal artistic success, many opposed critics that spurred discussions, created a dialogue of opposing views that in our time evolve separately (with that terribly degrading maxime "All opinions are equally valid!"). If we were a little more audacious, we could defend a statement that his shows marked a revival of theater.

Moses und Aron will be premiered on October 20 2015 at Opéra Bastille. Philippe Jordan will conduct and Thomas Johannes Mayer (superb!) and John Graham-Hall will be in the roles of Moses and Aron respectively. We also note Christopher Purves among the cast members. Show not to be missed!

Bluebeard Castle/La Voix Humaine directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski (and his formidable team: Malgorzata Szczesniak, Felice Ross and Denis Guéguin). How to express all the praise for Warli and his theater, for his amazing productions, for his ability to create controversies without ever being trivial, vulgar or rude... without being carried to excess by sheer admiration and enthusiasm!?  It will be visually enchanting, conceptually inspiring... and that Warli impact will work on us -- images that keep running in our heads for days after the show, the concept that haunts us for weeks... To make it bigger, Esa-Pekka Salonen will be conducting and the cast is unbeatable: Johannes Martin Kränzle and Ekaterina Gubanova in the first part and Barbara Hannigan in the second. La prima is scheduled for November 23 2015 and the series of 9 shows will run until December 10.

Iolantha/Casse-Noisette, directed by Dima Tcherniakov -- the most courageous and the most
fascinating story-teller in opera today. A hard core humanist who recounts the stories of little people and their interaction with the violent social environment of their/our time. The cast of Iolantha includes Sonya Yoncheva, Alexander Tsymbalyuk, Vito Priante, Gennady Bazzubenkov... Production will be premiered on March 9 2016 at Opéra Garnier - 12 shows are scheduled. Impossible to miss!

Lear by Aribert Reimann will be finally produced in Paris too. To me this is one of the best 3
operas composed after the WW2 and knowing that it will be directed by Calixto Bieito (and staged by Rebecca Ringst) I already feel elated with expectations. It will be gory, it will be tough, but it will be passionate, audacious and delightful! [Did I say, Calixto rules?!] Fabio Luisi will conduct (a curious choice!?) and among the cast members we note Erika Sunnegardh, Ricarda Merbeth, Annette Dasch, Gidon Saks, Andreas Conrad, Eda Moser (sic!)... Premiere - May 23 2016.

Rigoletto  is one of the most famous Verdi operas because of its sparkling arias, so appreciated  by the belcanto fans -- and our guilty pleasures too. Rigoletto unfortunately inherited from belcanto a poor quality of libretto, which is why this opera is very very difficult to produce. It is naive, borderline incoherent and stupid, and asking Klaus Guth to produce it was an
excellent choice. He is one of the rare directors capable to patch up the deficiencies of the Rigoletto libretto and make it exciting and fascinating... Cast: Olga Peretyatko/Irina Lungu, Vesselina Kasarova, Quinn Kelsey/Franco Vassallo, Rafal Siwek/Andrea Mastroni... The run of 17 shows will start on April 11 2016.

One production that I am much more reserved in my expectations is La Damnation de Faust,
because it was confided to Alvis Hermanis whose merits in opera directing I never really understood --  and I tried, I saw 4 of his productions which I found OKish at best (Die Soldaten and Così fan tutte were, honestly, bad). This Damnation is likely to be a success thanks to the palette of singers involved -- Sophie Koch, Jonas Kaufmann/Bryan Hymel, Bryn Terfel, Edwin Crossley-Mercer... Premiere, December 8 2015.

Another production that I am not really interested in is Il Trovatore. That opera is racist and as such not my cup of tea. Although Dima Tcherniakov showed how this opera could be produced --by stripping away its racist thread-- to be modern and delightful, I doubt Alex Olle will be able to shake and spin the libretto in a similar, humanistic, way. I can only hope he [Alex] will prove me wrong because the cast is definitely a delicatesse: Anna Netrebko/Hui He, Marcelo Alvarez/Fabio Sartori, Ekaterina Semenchuk/Ekaterina Gubanova, Ludovic Tezier/Vitaliy Bilyy, Roberto Tagliavono/Liang Li...   13 shows are scheduled between January 31 and March 6 2016.

Among the revivals we are happy to see Der Rosenkavalier back, with Anja Harteros, Peter Rose, Daniela Sindram..., or the Haneke view of Don Giovanni with Artur Rucinski, Maria Bengtsson, Matthew Polenzani, Gaële Arquez... To that add Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (dir- Stefan Herheim) that we saw in Salzburg 2 years ago -- its Paris premiere is scheduled for March 2016.
Lissner was unfortunately constrained to include two productions of Verdi operas, created
during the dreaded Nicolas Joël era: La Traviata directed by Benoît Jacquot -- a truly appalling show that will otherwise be attractive thanks to the cast members (Sonya Yoncheva, Bryan Hymel, Zeljko Lucic and even Placido Domingo), or a flat Aida, staged by Olivier Py, with Anita Rachelishvili/Daniela Barcellona, Sandra Radvanovsky/Liudmila Monastyrska, Aleksanders Antonenko/Fabio Sartori, Kwangchul Youn... A pretty Damiano Micheletto production of Il Barbiere will be back on stage with Pretty Yende, Lawrence Brownlee, Nicola Alaimo, Ildar Abdrazakov, Alessio Arduini, as well as one of the best Robert Carsen productions --
Capriccio, with Adrianne Pieczonka, Benjamin Bernheim, Wolfgang Koch, Daniela Sindram and conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. Note also the revival of of Jacquot's Werther in January 2016 with Elina Garanca and Piotr Beczala, together with Stéphane Degout, Elina Tsallagova, Paul Gay...

For more details about the productions and subscription details  see the Paris Opera website.


  1. "Among the revivals we are happy to see Der Rosenkavalier back..." I might have been happy to se it back in a different production. Even with Fleming, Graham and Bonney, I was unable to sit it out to the end.

    1. I think it's more about its fantastic cast than about the show itself, which is not really that bad ;)
      In any case that Wernicke production was not any worse than the one proposed by Harry Kupfer in Salzburg in 2014, or the one that comes back all the time in Munich [dir Schenk] to make people scream in ecstasy.

      I think the program is cleverly constructed and those less appealing productions are suddenly attractive because of the appealing lineup of singers.

  2. Renaissance of Opera Cake, yay!

    What a difference a new intendant makes. With these names it's an entirely different company. And none too soon...

  3. Clearly it is just me, but I have found 15/16 really disappointing (albeit an improvement from Joel for sure). It is just jam packed with the usual names with no real attempt to make the company stand out from the rest. I'll probably try to see ol' Romeo but not particularly inspired to go out of my way to see anything else. Tickets rise, public rehearsals and talks vanish, no real commitment to women... Is it really that hard to be daring and bring over somebody like Elizabeth LeCompte? Not a great first season for me and I hope somebody with a much stronger vision takes over sooner rather than later, sorry.

    Not opera, but the ballet's season is disappointing too. It has taken twenty steps backwards with an uninspiring standardised repoirtoire you can get more or less anywhere in the world. I can't believe Stephane Lissner had the audacity to overlook the legendary stars Laurent Hilaire and Manuel Legris (heading Vienna's ballet) for someboywho's offered something so... well, predicrable. It's a textbook example of how static programming has become company to company. Bleurgh. Anyway!

    1. Les goûts et les couleurs... ;)

      After the years of dreadful productions, Tchernyakov and Warlikowski are finally back to Paris Opera, while Herheim and Bieito, as well as Hermanis, are making their debut in new productions. Lear will finally be staged in Paris, and Romeo Castellucci is regularly proposing the best what any theater (beyond opera!) can propose at all right now.

      Traditionalists cannot complain either because the reprisals of (what I call) bad productions [that usually please traditionalists] will be made with superb casts. I would personally ditch most of those shows but the ONP is supposed to cover the broad spectrum of tastes and I think this program definitely checks all the boxes.

      As for the ticket prices, they are the same as this year -- at least those displayed in the program.

      Ballet is not my cup of tea, so... ;)

    2. But haven't they fiddled with their definitions of categories so that some seats go up in price?

    3. Yes they did, but really for a very limited number of seats. They've been doing it for several years already and called it "small rectifications" ;)

    4. In any case they can never leave their booking system alone; every year it changes. Meanwhile, at La Monnaie I have had the same damned seat with the same blessed neighbours for over 20 years.

  4. Interested in how the Castellucci Moses goes and what would be the relationship with his "Go down, Moses" - another fabulous Castellucci show which had it's Paris premiere last autumn.
    By the way, Mr.Lissner has been a director who doesn't take risks to be extremely challenging these days as far as I'm aware - at least from his Aix or Scala years. All now well known names who are promised reasonable success. Hope he will offer enough rehearsal periods to those directors to avoid something like the 'flat' Aida.

    1. Lissner did shake the boat while at La Scala -- big time actually! La Scala was a temple of conservatism and he managed to find a way and change it into something completely different -- without making revolution. It suffices to see the season openers under Lissner at La Scala and compare them to what happened in Paris under Joël. Lissner is not Mortier, but he is a good approximation of Mortier while remaining "politically correct" for the most part ;)

      I agree about "Go down Moses". It was a SUPERB show. His contemplations about religion always start with those dramatic situations at the beginning that leads to helplessness and recourse to "supernatural" -- which is a perfect ground for metaphysical discussions... A very similar was the case with “On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God” -- which you hopefully saw?! That latter show created a huge [and very surprising] scandal in France a few years ago.


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