Lyons. National Opera. 20-XII-2022. Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Candide, comic operetta in two acts on a libretto by Lilian Hellman after Voltaire. Director: Daniel Fish. Sets: Andrew Lieberman, Perrine Villemur. Costumes: Terese Wadden. Lights: Eric Wurtz. Choreography: Annie B. Parson. With: Paul Appleby, tenor (Candide); Derek Welton, bass-baritone (Pangloss); Sharleen Joynt, soprano (Cunegonde); Tichina Vaughn, mezzo-soprano (the Old Lady); Peter Hoare, tenor (The Governor/Vanderdur/Rogorski); Sean Michael Plumb, baritone (Maximilian); Thandiswa Mpongwana, mezzo-soprano (Paquette); Robert Lewis, tenor (Charles-Edouard/Alchemist/Captain/1st Senior/1st Inquisitor). Paweł Trojak, baritone (Martin/Hermann-Auguste/A crook/A scrap dealer/2nd inquisitor); Pete Thanapat, bass-baritone (Tsar Ivan/Croupier/2nd Senior/3rd Inquisitor); Tigran Giragosyan, (Sultan Ashmet); Antoine Saint-Espes, bass-baritone (A Bear Trainer/Stanislas); Paolo Stupenengo, bass (A doctor); Didier Roussel, tenor (A cosmetics merchant). Choir (choirmaster Benedikt Kearns) and Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon, musical direction: Wayne Marshall
Condemned by its bewildering scenic emptiness to shine only musically, this new Candid mark with a black stone the glorious history of the Opéra de Lyon. A production which falls in addition really badly in the aftermath of the budgetary restrictions decided by the new municipality of the Capital of the Gauls.
Memorable. Obviously memorable, but a bit like Mozart said to Salieri in theAmadeus by Milos Forman: I didn’t think such a thing was possible. We bet that we will talk for a long time about this winter of 2022 when an American director was invited to cross the Atlantic not to come and tell the thousands of spectators who flocked to the Opéra de Lyon in droves about the marvelous “comic operetta” at the a thousand revisions, with which, in 1956, Bernstein and his librettist Lilian Hellman stood up nicely to McCarthyism. Daniel Fish had warned: obligatory stages of the Voltairian roller coaster (castle, earthquake, war, shipwreck, trip to Venice and Buenos Aires, conversion, reincarnation…) “ you won’t see a literal depiction… Rather, we’re looking to steer the story down a more open, more essential path. ” Certainly. But the practice of off-piste requires a bit of genius, and above all a lot of work. Fish is neither Cherniakov nor Kratzer. Two hours in his company are enough to open up: the path announced was a dead end, the fry of Mr. Fish proving to be more than small in the end…
A bare plateau crossed, from the infinity of the garden to the infinity of the courtyard, by an alignment of gray chairs that will be moved ad nauseam, an enormous bubble of transparent plastic (a terrestrial globe for the Voltairean globe-trotter?) which will collapse halfway in the end (why not completely?), a neon radiator exploring the stage in all directions, the aesthetic shock without rhyme or reason of three geysers of dry ice… So much for the aesthetic anti-shock. ” come as you Are » as a costumer instruction addressed to all the artists who, on theOpening, take over the set, one by one, facing the audience. An ordinary crowd from which the soloists, eight dancers, and a single dancer will stand out, who, after having swapped his clothes with a colleague, sees himself condemned to evolve until the end in a little dress… We walk with a determined step … ten steps forward, ten back… we step over the chairs, sometimes under the noses of soloists who have to be pushed… we indulge in the minimalism of a pas de deux in a corner but above all in general indifference… we are finally allowed to waddle on What’s the Use… The hands are solicited for some cabalistic signs that one would swear to have obeyed a laxist “ do what you want it will be perfect! So much for Annie B. Parson’s anti-choreography.
This resignation for all, erected as a standard, applies to the dialogues evacuated in favor of brief aphorisms stated at the microphone by a very quick-witted, shrewd master of ceremonies: “ We thought too much about money, that’s the reason we died ” or : ” We watch the world fall apart, but deep down we don’t believe it. » The booklet of Candid not interested Daniel Fish. The problem is that his own statement (which, by the way? a possible lesson in pessimism addressed to all the optimists of the Earth?) does not interest us either. And we sympathize very quickly with the pensum that must have represented for everyone (administrative team included) the establishment of the non-concept of this non-show, applicable (we shudder in advance if the Fish way were to gangrene our time) to all the operas in the repertoire. We would prefer to point out the urgency of a DVD release of the brilliant Candid from 2006 where Robert Carsen did justice to the two geniuses despised by Daniel Fish: Leonard Bernstein and François-Marie Arouet, dit Voltaire.
We can’t help thinking about certain Coronation of Poppea from last summer : same visual resignation with the overhang of a structure with over-significance left to the appreciation of the spectator on all the protagonists screwed on chairs around their colleagues in action. The comparison stops there: while in Aix, Ted Huffman invited the bodies to real heights, Daniel Fish is content to detach them from the anonymity of the crowd, then to send them back there once their performance has been performed. What a waste for the gold that the Lyon institution has put between its fingers! We know what a man is capable of. Well Directed Paul Appleby. Here we have to content ourselves with the delicate and stylish timbre of his Candide, with the emotion, even reduced to his vocality alone, which he knows how to distill in this character on paper that has survived the centuries. Fish is no more interested in the astonishing Cunégonde of Sharleen Joyntan unknown who will no longer be, capable of surfing the crest of the vocalizations of Glitter and Be gay like Miyazaki’s Ponyo on the Ride of the Valkyries reviewed by Joe Hisaishi. This air of American bells transports the very body of the very young singer, to such an extent that one wonders if, left to herself, she has also settled her choreography, and decided to bow to the public who cheer. The old lady of Tichina Vaughnall slaughter, the sober Pangloss of the Klingsor of Bayreuth, Derek Welton, complete the quartet. A tonic skewer of comprimarii (Peter Hoare, Sean Michael PlumbPaweI Trojak…) a choir delighted to extricate itself vocally from the ambient depression, complete the picture of this best of musical worlds. Wayne Marshallwho fortunately chose the 1989 version, the one finally supervised by the composer, correctly assessed the heaviness of the shoe that the engagement of Daniel Fish was going to place on his shoulders: theOpening gets off to a flying start, intimating the key word with an invigorating note to anesthetize the discontent of a room that one would have imagined willingly intractable at the time of the salutes.
From this scenic nothingness, at 180° Bernsteinian luxuriance, ultimately as pretentious as it is chilly (Fish drowns out any hint of controversy by not taking the risk of the conclusive ” Any questions? which he purely and simply crosses out), we will have succeeded in saving a single reason for satisfaction: having exposed to us, in its most frontal nudity, the backstage of the Opéra de Lyon, this formidable opera house which , from the Erlo era, housed a plethora of productions for which the adjective “memorable” could be used without irony.
Photo credits: © Stofleth
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Candide in Lyon: sudden emptiness – ResMusica
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