Monday, January 6, 2014

REVIEW: Opera at the South of France

After spending my Christmas in London, I flew to Marseille and from there, visited some nearby cities. Needless to say, I took every possible opportunity to attend an opera. Here are some of of my impressions:

Opera Orchestre National Montpellier, Sunday December 29

This new production of Cosi Fan Tutte at Opera Orchestre National Montpellier has to be the most austere production I have ever seen. In fact, everything about this experience was austere. Not only was the production kept minimal, the theatre service was also minimal. There was no bar, cafe or refreshment booth. The interval was long enough though that one can go to the supermarket across the street to grab something to drink. Even the toilets were kept minimal. On each floor, only two cubicles were open for use for ALL male or female! All égalité, but neither liberté or fraternité was the atmosphere!

This anti-production directed by Jean Paul Scarpitta was of different animal. I have seen opera concerts that has more props on stage than this. Almost the whole of Act 2 was performed with only a bench on stage! Luckily, the performers were good enough.

Alexander Shelley - conductor; Erika Grimaldi - Fiordiligi; Marianne Crebassa - Dorabella; Andrè Schuen - Guglielmo; Wesley Rogers - Ferrando; Virginie Pochon - Despina; Antonio Abete - Don Alfonso

Opera Grand Avignon, Tuesday December 31

 The dreadful experience started with the huge crowd trying to get into the theatre. There were three doors, but the theatre decided just to open one for no reason... they were neither checking tickets nor bags. It was so chaotic that I thought that this production must be so good that the demand was so high. BUT I was SO WRONG!

This My Fair Lady, directed by Paul-Emile Fourny, was absolutely dreadful! This is a great example of why opera houses shouldn't try to produce musicals unless they are ready to change. This production has dancers that come in to just dance. The dancers were not not even in costumes that reflected the season or environment the musical was trying to convey. The singers can't dance and can barely act. Apparently, the translation wasn't too bad! What a horrible and hilariously experience!

Dominique Trottein - musical direction; Elodie Vella & Jean-Charles Donnay - choreography; Chiara Skerath - Eliza Doolittle; Catherine Alcover - Mrs Higgins; Jean-Louis Pichon - Professeur Henry Higgins; Lionel Peintre - Colonel Hugh Pickering; Philippe Ermelier - Alfred P. Doolittle; Raphael Bremard - Freddy Eynsford-Hill

Opera Marseille, Friday January 3

The sophistication is definitely several notches higher in this second biggest city in France. That, on top of the fact that this is a French operetta performed by French people, this production was as glorious and fizzy as a French champagne!

This production directed by Claire Servais served up a balanced cast that knows how to entertain. Servais' vision was also dutifully met by scenic designer Dominique Pichou and costume designer Jorge Jara.

Samuel Jean - conductor; Brigitte Hool - Eurydice; Marie-Ange Todorovitch - L’Opinion Publique; Chloe Briot - Cupidon; Jennifer Michel - Diane; Delia Noble - Vénus; Philippe Talbot - Orphée; Loic Felix - Aristée /Pluton; Francis Dudziak - Jupiter; Franck Cassard - Mercure