Perspectives

The great debuts

A fresh look at season 15/16 — By Octave

During the summer break, we offer our readers a retrospective glaze on Stéphane Lissner’s first season at the Paris Opera. Singers, stage directors, stage designers… The season 15/16 hosted the debuts at the Paris Opera of numerous acclaimed artists. Looking back on a season-manifesto.    


And Folly took over the Palais Garnier…

This production of Platée directed by Laurent Pelly must be a timeless classic: season after season, it conveys an ever renewed pleasure. Furthermore, it still succeeds to surprise us and make us burst into laughter. One must admit that this time, the show could rely on the presence of Julie Fuchs, soprano of a rising generation, who was making her debut at the Paris Opera and enchanted the audience with her interpretation of La Folie.

And Romeo Castellucci confronted himself with Moses und Aron…

The inaugural event of this season unquestionably was Arnold Schönberg’s Moses und Aron given for the first time at the Opera Bastille. Stage director, creator of shows for theatre and opera that are as many visual shocks, the Italian Romeo Castellucci confronted himself to this biblical tale about a people’s wandering and the limits of speech. The term “confrontation” isn’t an overstatement when considered the importance of image in Castellucci’s aesthetic, importance that is precisely questioned by Schönberg in his opera. From this dialectical opposition between a major contemporary artist and one of the 20th century’s most fascinating works emerged a memorable artistic gesture, an aesthetic manifesto : on the vast stage of the Opera Bastille, a desert stretched itself out – firstly white then painted black – until ironing out the chorus, while Schönberg’s notes resounded relentlessly.

© Elena Bauer / OnP

And Barbara Hannigan set fire to La Voix humaine…

Another high point of the season was the dual evening bringing together Béla Bartók’s Le Château de Barbe-Bleue and Francis Poulenc’s La Voix humaine in a production by Krzysztof Warlikowski. This wasn’t the Polish stage director’s first experiment at the Paris Opera. Among his various productions, one remembers Iphigénie en Tauride (which will be revived next seasonL’Affaire Makropoulos or Le Roi Roger… For his anticipated comeback, he attempted creating close dramaturgical links between Bartók’s opera and Poulenc’ lyrical tragedy. The result of this double bill is a strange and fascinating theatrical and musical object, an intense experience for the audience. Under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan made her Paris Opera debut and offered an incandescent performance in the role of La Voix humaine’s passionate and suicidal lover: she literarily self-consumes on stage with a fire that doesn’t burn out until Poulenc’s last chords.

And Faust left the Earth for Mars…

For his Paris Opera debut, Latvian stage director Alvis Hermanis took over the myth of Faust and turned it into a very contemporary re-envisioning: basing himself upon the “Mars One” project which intends to colonize the planet Mars, seeing in cosmologist Stephen Hawking the scholar’s rightful heir, he imaged a production where the pact between the scholar and the Devil becomes a one-way ticket to the Red Planet. Under the musical direction of Philippe Jordan, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryan Hymel, Bryn Terfel and Sophie Koch were an outstanding vocal cast. 

And Rosina escaped Bartolo’s claws…

Rarely had a show gathered such a perfect cast: on the occasion of Il Barbiere di Siviglia’s revival in Damiano Michieletto’s electrifying staging, Lawrence Brownlee and Pretty Yende lent their voices to Count Almaviva and to Rosina. The South-African soprano, who was making her Paris Opera debut, composed on stage a powerful Rosina, whom her old fogey of a guardian had a hard time keeping captive… She’ll be back on the Opera Bastille’s stage in the title-role of Lucia di Lammermoor next season while Damiano Michieletto returns for a new production of Samson et Dalila to be discovered from the 4th of October.
© Julien Benhamou / OnP

And Rigoletto stopped laughing…

Unanimously acclaimed from New York to Salzburg, stage director Claus Guth hadn’t yet had the opportunity to direct a production for the Paris Opera. It now has been done with Rigoletto, for which he offered, as always, a chilling a chirurgical vision turning Gilda, the fool’s daughter, into the object of every fantasy: the opportunity for Olga Peretyatko to make a remarkable debut alongside Quinn Kelsey. A production that will be revived as soon as next season. 

And Lear was created in its original version at the Palais Garnier…

Last new operatic production of the season, the representation of Aribert Reimann’s Lear based on Shakespeare for the first time in its original language at the Palais Garnier, was one of the high points of this season. On the occasion, stage director Calixto Bieito offered a breathtaking show, living up to the Shakespearian drama. So as to make us eager to discover his Carmen programmed next season… Remembering Bo Skovhus’ stunning interpretation of this king at death’s door still sends shivers down one’s spine…

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