"I am the author, you are the play: if you fail it is I who shall be jeered at."
Trompe-la-Mort (Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes, Honoré de Balzac)
For this new opera, Luca Francesconi has seized upon one of the guiding figures of La Comédie Humaine: Vautrin alias Jacques Collin, alias the Abbot Carlos Herrera, alias… Trompe-la-Mort. An impressive masked figure, Trompe‑la‑mort reveals his true character through his impalpable latent energy and a plot abounding in tragic twists of fate. An ambivalent character, both regal in bearing and warmly protective, cruel and yet loving, rapacious and indomitable even in the face of madness, this ’Machiavelli among miscreants’ destined to become chief of police, uses his conquests to advance relentlessly in the pursuit of his aims whilst keeping his hand closely hidden. A consummate opportunist, the implacable Trompe-la-Mort exploits each turn of events with masterful subterfuge in his plot to subvert the social and economic order. He nonetheless remains fiercely devoted to those he has taken under his wing. Directed by Guy Cassiers, working for the first time with the Paris Opera, this portrait of a three-tiered society where some rise and others fall takes up Balzac’s question: “Is not the world a stage? The ’Troisième‑Dessous’ is the bottommost cellar beneath the stage of the Opera accommodating machinery, stagehands, the ramp, apparitions, blue devils spewing out of hell, etc.”