Romeo and Juliet, Don Giovanni, The Four Seasons and Gloria e Imeneo are on the program.
When Napoleon, inspired by Zingarelli, played “Romeo” in Italy
Bonaparte was 27 years old when he crossed the gates of Milan on May 15, 1796 after having recaptured the Lodi bridge from the Austrians. The young general in chief of the French army of Italy, who took command less than a month and a half earlier, arrived there as a conqueror. At the end of a lightning offensive, whose victories heralded the glorious beginning of what would later be called the first Italian campaign, he already posed himself, in the eyes of many commentators, as “successor of Caesar and Alexander!” »
It doesn’t take much for the city of Milan to roll out the red carpet for him. Having been entrusted by the Directory with the conduct of all French affairs in Italy, Napoleon appeared as a sovereign in the Lombard capital of the arts. And don’t forget to go to La Scala, to hear the last sensation of Italian opera : the Grini. Giuseppina, her first name, has been setting the Milanese public in turmoil for several months.
Enchanting with its already legendary velvety timbre, its beauty which is said to be second to none and its exhilarating vitality all those who, since January, have attended the creation of Giulietta e Romeo by Zingarelli, where the young singer of 22 years old plays the title role, opposite the Romeo of another opera star who is making Italian headlines: the castrato Crescentini. As soon as he heard it at La Scala, Bonaparte fell irrepressibly in love with it. To the point of taking her as his mistress, and bringing her back with him to Paris once he became First Consul, then making her, at the beginning of the Empire, the first singer to His Majesty the Emperor!
Was it to revive the memory of his triumph and the exaltation of this first Italian campaign, or because he had also fallen under the spell of the virtuoso lyrical flights of Crescentini? Still, Napoleon will not fail to call the castrato to Paris so that he can participate, alongside his mistress, in the rich opera evenings that he will organize there at regular intervals. As a fervent defender, like Louis XIV before him, of lyrical art.
Neapolitan Baroque and bel canto
Because it is no coincidence that we attribute to the Emperor this injunction, which has remained in the annals and which the directors of institutions never fail to remind their supervisors: “At the Opera, we must throw money out the window so that it comes in through the doors! » Just as the Napoleonic legend says that he never left on campaign without taking with him some singer to entertain him in the tent after the battles.
What role did Giulietta e Romeo really play in the advent of this love for opera? We cannot say. But it is undeniable that Zingarelli’s opera, which the Emperor insisted on having performed in Paris and which was performed many times throughout Europe until the end of the 1820s (it even sailed to New York! ), before being eclipsed by the Capulets and Montagues of Bellini (a student of Zingarelli), is no stranger to it. There are, in this little gem, whose arias and duets take as much from the virtuosity of the Neapolitan Baroque, which made the castrati the glory, as from the bel canto to come, real moments of ecstasy. From the virtuoso swirls of “My faithful heart”, to the explosive finale of the first act. Through the communicative emotion of Romeo’s great aria (“Quel sera mon joie”) or the originality of the accompaniment in Juliette’s aria which follows at Deux.
So many pages which seduced many singers after Crescentini and Grini – from Giuditta Pasta to Malibran. And that Adèle Charvet and Franco Fagioli will resume this season, after having recorded several extracts two years ago, during the event recreation of this opera. Which should find, in the staging of Gilles Rico (historical sets by Roland Fontaine, always elegant costumes by Christian Lacroix, lighting by Bertrand Couderc), all its historical flavor.
“Romeo and Juliet”, from October 18 to 22 at the Royal Opera.
Don Giovanni: Marshall Pynkoski, prophet in his kingdom
A simple telephone on the living room service desk. This is how, by Marshall Pynkoski’s own admission, the Toronto Opera Workshop began. The ex-dancer created the lyrical and choreographic company thirty-eight years ago with his partner Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, after a year of immersion in French choreographic and musical culture.
During which they danced at the Moulin Rouge in the evening to earn a living and scoured the libraries during the day to study treatises on dance and baroque music! The Atelier has since come a long way. From a “local” troupe, best known to residents of Toronto and aficionados of French baroque from North America, the artistic adventure has evolved into a company of international stature. Whose repertoire is no longer limited to Lully or Rameau but also looks towards Gluck, Reynaldo Hahn or Debussy.
The Versailles public will not have forgotten the troupe’s first appearance under the auspices of the Royal Opera. It was in Armida by Lully, in 2012. The production served the international deployment of the Opera Atelier, leading in its wake to invitations to Salzburg or to La Scala.
But, with or without their company, Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg remained faithful to the Château de Versailles. Witnesses, their recent stagings of Richard Lion’s Heart or The Cairo Caravan de Grétry, and their sumptuous revisitation of David and Jonathan de Charpentier, at the Chapelle royale (just published under the Château de Versailles Spectacles label.)
It is therefore no surprise that the duo returns to the Royal Opera this season. This time for a new production of Don Giovanni by Mozart. A familiar composer: the Toronto Opera Atelier signed, in 1991, the first Magic flute on period instruments from North America! They will find for this Don Giovanni, which promises to be one of the highlights of the season, Roland Fontaine on the sets and Christian Lacroix on the costumes. And the increasingly Mozartian baton of Gaëtan Jarry, at the head of the Royal Opera Orchestra. As for the role of Don Giovanni, it fell to Robert Gleadow, whose Leporello had strongly influenced the production of this same Don Giovanni in the production of Ivan Alexandre, five years ago.
“Don Giovanni”, from November 15 to 19 at the Royal Opera.
Gloria and Imeneo: when Venice dreamed of Versailles
At the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the grandiose Arrival of the French ambador at the ducal palace, painted in 1726 by Canaletto, keeps the memory of the enthronement of the Count of Gergy as ambador in the City of the Doges. But it was in 1723 that he took office. And it was therefore on his initiative that, on September 12, 1725, in the gardens of the emby, the Gloria and Imeneo by Vivaldi. If the work responds to the name of “serenade”, it is closer to opera than to the night music which will soon define the genre.
Featuring a succession of arias, duets and recitatives on a model that is as much a cantata as a melodrama, this dialogue between Hymen and Gloire was to commemorate, a week after their union at Fontainebleau, the marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczynska. Vivaldi, who had just published his famous Four Seasons, was then at the height of his glory. This had not escaped Gergy, who established himself in Venice as one of his important patrons, commissioning him for sumptuous parties, where all of Venice dreamed of Versailles, of numerous occasional works, aware that the unparalleled skill of the “Red Priest” to mix vocal and instrumental virtuosity in a continuous dance was the guarantee of unforgettable ceremonies.
With its irresistible wedding marches or its captivating barcarolles, this Gloria and Imeneo is no exception to the rule. It is up to conductor and violinist Stefan Plewniak, who in recent years has become the cantor of Vivaldi’s music at Versailles, to revive its unique character, in the enchanting setting of the Petit Trianon gardens and their Théâtre de la Reine. All in a unique production by Nicolas Briançon.
“Gloria e Imeneo”, June 29 and 30 at the Théâtre de la Reine.
Malandain choreographs the “Four Seasons”
It was commissioned by the Versailles Opera. Born from the complicity between Stefan Plewniak, conductor of the house orchestra, and the choreographer Thierry Malandain. “We worked together for the first time on my ballet Marie Antoinette, already ordered by Versailles. It went so well that Plewniak asked me to start again on the Four Seasons . Those of Vivaldi and Giovanni Antonio Guido »says Malandain, one of the rare people to have an intimate knowledge of music.
The first last forty-five minutes, the second one hour. “ I start by Spring by Vivaldi and I continue with that of Guido in which I make cuts. Which works well because Guido composes in the form of the French suite, which juxtaposes a succession of dances from which we can cut », Indicates the choreographer, director of the Ballet de Biarritz. In truth, if he had had to choose, he might have avoided The four Seasons by Vivaldi so well known that they can seem worn out and one wonders how to make them heard. “The idea of creating a millefeuille by mixing the two scores allows us to deliver something else », affirms Thierry Malandain.
“I am not creating a dramaturgy but I am against the worn side of Seasonsby Vivaldi by having them dance in contemporary outfits, while those of Guido are danced in period costume. This may reflect a form of nostalgia in relation to Seasonswhich are damaged. It’s about talking about inner ecology with Vivaldi and with Guido about nostalgia for a lost ideal. Please do not transpose this to ecology, the wear and tear of the planet and this leitmotif of current times: that is not the question I wanted to address. »
The piece will be premiered at the Versailles Opera on December 14 in sets and costumes by Jorge Gallardo. It will last an hour and a half without an intermission. Malandain admits that he is currently in the throes of creation: “As always, like every time. And yet I love Vivaldi, whose choreography I choreographedL’Estro Armonico,” he said. From Guido to Vivaldi, he alternates small and large forms, going from four to twenty-two dancers, careful not to repeat ensembles already seen. “I’m looking for new geometries, new emblies. A creation is a wonderful opportunity not to follow in the same footsteps.»
“Les Saisons”, from December 14 to 17 at the Royal Opera.