Opera

Falstaff

Giuseppe Verdi

Bastille Opera

from 10 to 30 September 2024

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Opera

Madama Butterfly

by Giacomo Puccini

Bastille Opera

from 14 September to 25 October 2024

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Opera

Faust

Charles Gounod

Bastille Opera

from 26 September to 18 October 2024

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Life at the Opera

  • Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff
    Article

    Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

  • Draw-me Madama Butterfly
    Video

    Draw-me Madama Butterfly

  • Imaginary Faust
    Video

    Imaginary Faust

  • Recipe of the day: Faust
    Video

    Recipe of the day: Faust

  • The video projections in Faust
    Article

    The video projections in Faust

  • Order above all else - Interview with Ève-Maud Hubeaux
    Video

    Order above all else - Interview with Ève-Maud Hubeaux

  • The two faces of Odette and Odile
    Video

    The two faces of Odette and Odile

  • Podcast Swan Lake with France Musique
    Video

    Podcast Swan Lake with France Musique

  • Voices from the Troupe: Florent Mbia
    Video

    Voices from the Troupe: Florent Mbia

  • A cathartic experience - Léonore Baulac rehearses Bluebeard
    Video

    A cathartic experience - Léonore Baulac rehearses Bluebeard

© Sébastien Mathé / OnP

Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

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Interview with the stage director

04 min

Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

By Marion Mirande

Created in 1999, Dominique Pitoiset's production of Falstaff makes its return to the stage of the Opéra Bastille. When it was last revived, the director discussed his production that brims over with vitality and charm.


Tell us about your first encounter with Falstaff.

I first got to know Falstaff through Shakespeare. At the time of this production's creation, I'd had some major successes in the theatre with Love's Labour's Lost, The Tempest and Macbeth. I had come out of the German school, and had been assistant to Karge and Langhoff, then Giorgio Strehler, who himself had been Bertolt Brecht's assistant. So my approach to Verdi came about via a post-Brechtian, "tangible" theatre. We thought about the mediation of objects, how to increase the focal points of the interaction between the singers. This worked rather well with Verdi because with him, the movements are "musicalised" – dictated by the musical writing.


How did you come to conceive this production and its aesthetic?

I had taken it on with the conviction that we shouldn't do anything too contemporary with it, while being aware that an Elizabethan aesthetic wouldn't dialogue at all well with Verdi's music. I thought it would be interesting to exploit the discrepancies by creating a world on stage that was visually closer to Verdi than Shakespeare. It's a production from the previous century, with an aesthetic that's a very far cry from my current projects. My standpoint would be different if I had to stage the work again. However, looking at the staging, I find it has a lot of charm, and I've immersed myself in it again just as you'd enjoy rediscovering an old comic book tucked away on a shelf.
This staging is full of the ghosts of those who have inhabited it – and there are a lot of them. At the opera, the history of revivals is full of memories and the human element. If a production works and carries on for years, it's thanks to the community of artists and technical teams who keep the whole idea alive. This is something we don't see as stage directors. Once the first night is over, we generally turn the page, ease off the pressure and move onto something else.

Dominique Pitoiset et Varduhi Abrahamyan (Mrs Quickly) en répétition
Dominique Pitoiset et Varduhi Abrahamyan (Mrs Quickly) en répétition © Eléna Bauer / OnP

How much room for manoeuvre do you have with a revival?

Changes always depend on the new singers' relationship with their roles, what their interpretation allows and the way they move. With time, I have learned to observe them. Then I can make adjustments and guide them along paths where they can develop. If you look at past revivals of this production, there have been some very different Falstaffs and Alices, for example. You have to factor in the artists' singularities and requirements. Opera is a world where, with very short rehearsal times, people are putting their reputations on the line, and it's pretty scary. With the passing years and each new project, my own fears have gradually subsided, and I now take great pleasure in helping performers confront their anxieties more calmly.


Can you tell us a bit about the character of Falstaff?

When I look back at this production, I think about the film by Orson Welles, and that brilliant scene, played with incredible finesse, when the young king ascends the throne. Falstaff, who knows him well, is in the crowd and shouts out to him, trying to attract his attention. But the king pretends not to see him, and magisterially disowns him. That scene alone encapsulates Falstaff: a buffoon for whom the whole world is just a joke – and that aspect is what deeply touched the maestro Verdi, I feel.

Draw-me Madama Butterfly

Watch the video

Understand the plot in 1 minute

1:07 min

Draw-me Madama Butterfly

By Octave

For his Madame Chrysanthème, Pierre Loti drew on memories of his own visit to Japan in 1885. When composing Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini was inspired by the popular melodies and sonorities of Japanese voices. However, in the literary work, as in the opera, the heroine remains the same: Kiku-san or Cio‑Cio‑san, a young geisha betrayed by her western husband, the symbol of the meeting of two different worlds. Robert Wilson’s ethereal production espouses to perfection the dramatic intensity and underlying violence of this thoroughly Japanese tragedy.  

Imaginary Faust

Watch the video

A repertoire work narrated in a visual poem born of popular culture

1:03 min

Imaginary Faust

By Octave

“I want a treasure which contains them all! I want youth!” Frustrated by the futile quest for knowledge, the erudite old Faust sells his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth and the beautiful Marguerite… Reworking the legend popularised by Goethe, Gounod focuses on the love story and elevates the significance of Marguerite’s fall and ultimate salvation.

Choosing to lighten the narrative’s philosophical scope allows him to strike a balance between scenes where the supernatural calls for the visually spectacular and others depicting a universe governed by inward actions and feelings.

Transposed to the present day, Tobias Kratzer’s Faust reflects on contemporary society’s obsession with eternal youth. His production’s sophisticated scenography oscillates between hyperrealism and magic, between the world of today and the mysterious atmosphere of German romanticism.  

Recipe of the day: Faust

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Ingredients of Tobias Kratzer's stage production

000:47 min

Recipe of the day: Faust

By Octave

© Elena Bauer / OnP

The video projections in Faust

Read the article

Interview with Mathilde Jobbé Duval

04 min

The video projections in Faust

By Aliénor Courtin

Staged by Tobias Kratzer for the first time during in 2020, Faust was truly discovered by the public in 2022. This production, reimagined in a contemporary fashion, uses modern technology: video projections punctuate the story and participate fully in the narrative. To mark its revival on the stage of the Opéra Bastille, Octave met Mathilde Jobbé Duval, head of the video-sound team, who presents several techniques used, including live camera and frontal projections.

I have been working at the Opera for 17 years. Today, I am a audio and video production manager. I don't participate in the intital creative process, but as of the first technical run-throughs and stage rehearsals. My job, together with the whole team, is to study the project's feasibility and to do everything possible to bring it to fruition. It's always very satisfying to take part in creations because you really work on building something with the director and his teams.

For Faust, the director, Tobias Kratzer, and the video artist, Manuel Braun, came up with an ambitious video installation. A frontal projection on a tulle covering the entire proscenium combines pre-created images and live video.

Most of the videos were shot by drone in the streets of Paris during the lockdown. Others were taken from archive stockshots. For the scene of "La Chevauchée", two extras playing Faust and Mephistopheles shot the images in costume on the Champs-Elysées by night. Manuel Braun also chose to use special effects to animate certain images. This is the case of the scene showing Notre-Dame de Paris in flames.

Once all these images had been shot and edited, and Tobias Kratzer and Manuel Braun had selected the shots to appear on the screen, my job was to assemble the projection and make it as attractive as possible. I made corrections to colours and angles, cropping and harmonising formats. Most of my work is therefore prepared in advance so that everything runs smoothly during the performance. Then, during the performance, I make sure that the broadcast goes smoothly.

One of the most used video systems is the live camera. The soloists are filmed live by two cameramen who are two of the extras playing Mephistopheles' demons. I am in contact with them throughout the performance to assist with their movements and to check that the setting is clear before being projected live, depending on the camera feedback I see from my control room. This system is used in Marguerite's "Jewel Aria" scene and also in Dame Marthe's flat and in the metro.

© Charles Duprat / OnP

I am also in contact with the stage manager who gives me the cues. That is, she indicates the exact moments at which I should launch the images, according to musical cues. In the case of the live scenes, the camera sequences were defined when the production was created with the previous performer of Marguerite (editor's note: the performer in 2021 was Ermonela Jaho and in 2022, Angel Blue). The two singers do not follow exactly the same movements, so we have to adapt the sequence of images. It's still live! To sum up, as a video operator, I pay attention to the artists' movements and the stage manager to the music.

Tobias Kratzer's direction is very readable, the story is told literally so the videos are very realistic. Of course, some scenes are more fanciful than others, like that of "La Chevauchée". But it remains a narrative video, every frame moves the story forward.

Order above all else - Interview with Ève-Maud Hubeaux

Watch the video

6:06 min

Order above all else - Interview with Ève-Maud Hubeaux

By Isabelle Stibbe

Mezzo-soprano Ève-Maud Hubeaux discusses her preparation for the role of the Chief Vestal, Lydia Steier's staging and the musical particularities of Gaspare Spontini's three-act opera La Vestale.

The two faces of Odette and Odile

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Bleuenn Battistoni rehearses Swan Lake

4:45 min

The two faces of Odette and Odile

By Antony Desvaux

On the occasion of the revival of Swan Lake at the Opéra Bastille, Bleuenn Battistoni rehearses Rudolf Nureyev's choreography alongside her partners Hugo Marchand and Florent Melac.

The Étoile dancer talks about the dual character of Odette and Odile, which allows her to work on several facets: animal gestures, a manipulative dimension, and a purer femininity.

She stresses the importance of oral transmission in studio work, notably with coach Claude de Vulpian.

Finally, she confides how much the music of Swan Lake has become inscribed in her body over the years, as a result of the different roles she has interpreted in this ballet.  

Podcast Swan Lake with France Musique

Listen the podcast

Dance! Sing! Tales of Opera and Ballet

Podcast Swan Lake with France Musique

By Jean-Baptiste Urbain

Voices from the Troupe: Florent Mbia

Watch the video

5:30 min

Voices from the Troupe: Florent Mbia

By Isabelle Stibbe

The Paris Opera is launching a new series, Voices from the Troupe, to learn more about the talents who have joined the institution's new opera group.

To coincide with La Vestale, Florent Mbia, who plays the Chief of the Aruspices and a consul, discusses his career, from discovering his voice in Cameroon to joining the Troupe, via his years in the Paris Opera Chorus.

A cathartic experience - Léonore Baulac rehearses Bluebeard

Watch the video

6:24 min

A cathartic experience - Léonore Baulac rehearses Bluebeard

By Antony Desvaux

On the occasion of the repertory debut of Barbe-Bleue, Léonore Baulac talks about the role of Judith she plays in this ballet by Pina Bausch, created in 1977.

The Étoile dancer plays a woman whose curiosity leads her to confront a man who is both terrible and manipulative. She underlines the harshness and cruelty of a story that echoes our own times.

She explains the central role of the tape recorder and Béla Bartók's music, and describes her work in the studio with her partner Takeru Coste.

Finally, she looks back at Pina Bausch's writing technique, based on repetition to the point of exhaustion, which allows her to transcend herself.

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