When Louis XIV inaugurated the Académy Royal de Musique in 1669, opera as a genre had scarcely had four decades of commercial life. Let us leave aside the babbling, even the great ones of Monteverdi, the opera is born to the spectator in Venice in the thirties of that seventeenth century that the French wanted his. Despite its continuity, the Paris Opera it has moved up to thirteen times to reach the present in which it has two great theaters, the Palais Garnier, opened in 1875, and its recent new headquarters at the Place de la Bastille, opened in 1989, in full euphoria for the bicentennial of the revolution. It is also the anniversary, the 30 years of a life full of doubts, to the point of becoming the most controversial achievement of Mitterrand.
But the French feel passion for their institutions and everything is designed to last and find meaning in its historical projection. So the double anniversary has become the occasion to launch a lyrical season of the highest rank. They have not even needed to remember the moments of glory of the French capital in operatic matters. So many and so famous that they would make of the anniversary almost a showcase of what any lyrical world theater does: from the baroque of Lully or Rameau, going through the classicism of Gluck, the supremacy of Paris in the opera throughout the whole century XIX, the bel canto and the Italians who settled in Paris, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, much of Verdi, that Meyerbeer soon dethroned, and thus until reaching the twentieth century in which everything was turned upside down. Only Berlioz and his anniversary, also his, have been remembered 150 years after his death (1869), with his gigantic opera Les Troyens, that inaugurated the building of the Bastille, that wanted like the new opera of the town and today is one of the two pillars of the great institution.
The season of the great anniversaries has, in fact, been presenting titles since autumn, but it reaches its full meaning with the beginning of the year 2019, and it almost seems like a festival. A) Yes Les Troyens intermingles with Rusalka, of Dvorak, both in Bastille, and an incursion into the Baroque, Alesandro Scarlatti, one of the fathers of the Neapolitan opera, and his The cousin omicidio, premier at Garnier, all in four days.
So let's go with the first two operas presented in successive days in the short building of the square where the French Revolution began. Les Troyens It is a fearsome opera, five hours of performance. In fact, Berlioz himself never saw it fully represented and had to settle for a split version in two of those that could attend the second. Berlioz himself was so aware of the difficulties he stated in his Memoirs: "… so that I can conveniently organize the execution of a great work such as this, I have to be the absolute owner of the theater …". The same thought Wagner by the same dates, the decade of the sixties of the romantic century, but the German got it. The plot is a selection of Cantos de la Célebre Aeneid, with moments as well known as the Trojan horse and the consequent destruction of the city, the love episode of Dido and Aeneas, already embodied in opera by Cavalli and Purcell, and the beginnings of the prophecy of the gods that would lead Aeneas to the founding of Rome. Despite being just part of the canonical text of Virgil, Berlioz could not find a way to stop and turned his opera magna into a book that took more than a century to work. In fact, another anniversary is reached this Wednesday, the centenary that goes from the death of the composer (1869) to the recording of Sir Colin Davis, who offered the first integral of this opera in 1969, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of that recording.
Les Troyens it is, without a doubt, the main course of events. It is a staging of risk and finally winning. The stage director Dmitri Tcherniakov has picked up the baton from Pier Luigi Pizzi and Herbert Wernike and comes out winner with a vision of the amazing opera. Tcherniakov shows all the traits that irritate me, and yet here they work admirably. In the first part of the opera, the fall of Troy, highlights the character of Kassandra, following Berlioz, in a modern dirty war environment, a scenario that could go from Beirut to the Balkans or Ukraine. There is no epic, the Trojan royal family appears as a decadent ruling group and only Kassandra achieves the dignity of suicide after not being heard in her warnings. But a brutal suicide, burning to the bonze, an ontological protest against the culture of rape. The second part of the opera, the episode of Dido and Aeneas, puts Tcherniakov in a rehabilitation center for soldiers, everything is vulgar, and Dido and Aeneas are two more patients who imagine their improbable love story, while Trojan soldiers they suffer hallucinations in which supposed gods order them to march to Italy to found Rome. It is a love story marked by impotence, Aeneas is an insecure melancholy who seems to take refuge in the abandonment of Dido by his own amorous inhibition. And Dido hysterically executes the second female suicide of the opera. Everything works well for Tcherniakov. The same thing happens to Robert Carsen in his bid for a Rusalka marked by the terror of sexual consummation, and third female suicide in two days. Bad times those for the woman!
As well Rusalka It is an excellent achievement. The most popular opera of Dvorak cried out for a psychoanalytic vision that analyzed so many undines, gods of the waters, etc.
Finally, with two titles that are not simple, the house managed by Stephan Lisner has managed to recover the best of Mortier's legacy by eliminating all its excesses. There is the musical part. Les Troyens It is very well run by another man of the house, the owner Philippe Jordan. Rusalka, for its part, shines in the hands of one of the current best orchestral directors, the Finnish Susanna Mälkki. The former Ensemble Intercontemporain, leaves the bristling contemporary pieces to plunge into a late romanticism full of harps and horns. And since the music of Dvorak is extraordinary and the salvation of this opera of Little Mermaid and fairies of the forest, Mälkki dictates a lesson of reference.
As for the singers. A remarkable very high in general lines. In Les Troyens, Stéphanie d'Oustrac gets the best part with her impressive Cassandra. Brandon Jovanovich and Ekaterina Semenchuk confront their roles of Aeneas and Dido reasonably well although perhaps they pay the tribute of coming as substitutes. The success of the night was in the choir almost as much as the well-tested orchestra. In any case, it is a global success that gets the five hours of opera to pass without regret. Berlioz wins in any case.
In RusalkaIn addition to the aforementioned Carsen and Mälkki, great applause came from Camilla Nylund, like Rusalka, Karita Mattila, as her rival, the foreign princess, as well as the ramshackle prince who plays the tenor Klaus Florian Vogt, with a suggestive voice center and some problematic acute