Cher Public

Oil, be seeing you

JuiveToday at noon from the Bayerische Staatsoper, a live telecast of the premiere of Halévy’s La Juive, with Aleksandra Kurzak in the title role and Roberto Alagna as Eléazar. The cher public are naturally invited to chat. 

  • DeepSouthSenior

    In three hours we’ll be watching the final live telecast of the season on Digital Concert Hall. Berlin Phil. with Yannick Nezet-Seguin from the Waldbuhne. It’s an all-Czech program -- The Moldau, Dvorak Violin Concerto (Lisa Batiashvili), Dvorak 6th Symphony. Very nice. Fun!

    We missed the concert earlier this week that included the Shostakovich 13th, “Babi Yar.” Should be available in the archive later this week. I did catch a couple of minutes of Sarah Willis’s interview with Yannick. The summer is starting off well, with two of my favorite musical people in the whole wide world. “Beauty and the Beats.”

  • Fidelia

    For info for those who left the chat before the production team came out for bows. There was the usual battle between boos and warm applause, but I think the applause won by a hair. (Vera-Lotte’s?)

  • aulus agerius

    Such a boring opera…..I couldn’t stick with it. Those 2 sopranos going on and on. I’m having a hard time with the Herodiade posted on Trove Tues awhile back too. Hard to see myself going up to DC to hear it in Nov. And I thought I liked French opera.

    • jackoh

      Let me venture an opinion that I am not sure how far that I would go to defend. I don’t think that there is any such thing as a “boring opera” at least among the major repertoire. There are, rather, productions that render an opera boring (as well as those that can make some really exciting). In this particular instance I found the production to be rather ho-hum. (I can’t believe that I’m saying that about a Bieto production.) What I was less than thrilled about it was with the somewhat heavy- handed, overdone, and more than obvious use of symbols. When done with a deft hand, symbolism can be a useful tool to help you make sense of a narrative and guide you in not mistaking was is being said. When used as a bludgeon, it can turn you off to the narrative arc because, once you “get” the symbols and they start to underline every passage, you can give up on the narrative in the sense that you say “yeah, I know what’s going on here so I don’t have to pay attention any more; I already know the ending.” That is what I thought happened here.

      With regard to booing the production team, that is something that I’ve never done. Usually, I find different productions to be on the continuum of exciting to boring, but none have deserved an expression of outright hostility. The very boring ones, I just choose to ignore. But let me tell you this, I live to see a production, even of an opera that I love, that would drive me into a fit of rage. Because then I would know that I had been fully engaged. And if I were directing such a production and elicited pronounced booing, I think that I should consider it a success.

      • PCally

        Hmmm well personally I do tend to find La Juive a pretty boring opera and I’ve loved a couple of productions that I’ve seen, including the one at the met. And I cannot stand massanet but have seen at least three excellent productions of manon. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has enjoyed operas they would otherwise not care for due to the performance.

      • gustave of montreal

        If I were to attend La Juive a story in the old city of Konstanz, and find the singers in modern dress with coats shirts and ties, I’d walkout . Merci.

        • jackoh

          I guess that what sparks outrage in each of us differs among us.

  • Stefan

    I wouldn’t call it boring but lets just say, not very exciting (to be tactful).

    On a separate note, I found out two days ago that Sky Arts will be televising the Bayreuth “Ring” the last week of July. Although not available in the US, there are ways to get a copy of it afterwards which I am sure many of you are aware of. I haven’t been reading much lately so this may have already been posted here.

  • Jack Jikes

    I saw every performance of the Gunter Kramer production at the Met. Bieto made me feel I had never seen the opera before. Devastating and troubling -- with the the help of front-of-the house follow spots on the leads, it was as if I could read their thoughts.

  • tiger1

    Ms. Kurzak was originally listed as Princess Euxodie (in October with Kristine Opolais as Rachel). Does anyone know what lead to her being moved from the coloratura part to the spinto part?

    • The Poet Lenski

      Opolais withdrew from the production. No explanation was given.

      • tiger1

        Thanks -- but wouldn’t the logical thing have been to find a new Rachel?

        • Batty Masetto

          Kurzak did a superb job, and she herself said that her voice has darkened since her pregnancy so that Rachel actually fits her better now than Eudoxie would have. And Vera-Lotte Böcker was an excellent Eudoxie, so it was a win-win all around.

          • tiger1

            Well, in that case it was good for Ms Kurzak that the opportunity arose.

        • Krunoslav

          “wouldn’t the logical thing have been to find a new Rachel?”

          Why not go with a time-tested one?

          • armerjacquino

            Did I dream it, or was there once, many years ago, a parterre discussion about a ‘Friends’ COSI?

            Could never work of course, because the presence of the Geller siblings screws up the pairings.

        • Camille

          Logic has little to do with the opera world. Ms Kurzak stated in her interview she learned the role in a matter of weeks, and while singing another one (Lucia), so it would appear that Opolais pulled out (strange) or was bought out. Only Feldmarschallin knows for sure.

    • Krunoslav

      “L’amour fait tout.”

  • none

    Having read all of the above. I would like to point out that there is a really excellent review on Operatraveller if anyone is interested.

  • Camille

    La Juive is “boring” to us these days as it is a style of French academicism which we don’t hear all that much any more and which has been outmoded and decried as vieux jeu. I felt this was a very non-boring and relevant attempt, which coupled with a very good conducting of the score by Maestro de Billy, gave the update a spin on this old chestnut to make it live again. A case for ‘Regie to the Rescue’.

    Now, can anyone tell me what the branches and leaves were about--I missed that. Anyone have a program? Grimoaldo, I am awaiting your further communications.

    A. Kurzak made a viable protagonist--her voice long since having left the -INA categorization and this role, if she didn’t spread the tone so much--is a good one. She said in the interim that she had signed to sing Eudoxie four years ago--pre-baby--so I am glad she made the switch but what happened to Opolais was not touched upon. I also enjoyed the Eudoxie and Osborn’s really excellent command of his singing, too. Alagna let me down in the big aria but elsewhere was fine and this would appear to be a great role for him at this stage of his career. I hope certain things will improve with repetition, that’s all. It’s hard to forget Schikoff’s take on the “Rachel, quand du Seigneur”, after all….

    I was most happy and grateful to have the opportunity of seeing and hearing this work which DID, in fact, hold the stage for a good hundred years and should still be doing so. It’s not like the sorts of issues in this opera have YET disappeared. There are only too sadly still ever present in this world.

    • jackoh

      Camille: Allow me to go out on a “limb” here regarding the the symbolism of the whipping with branches and leaves. (I am not privy to Bieito’s intentions, but, like most of his symbolisms, I will venture an educated guess.) There is, of course, the New Testament account of Jesus driving the money changing Jews out of the temple by whipping them. I think that there is an obvious indication here. But also, if I remember correctly, there existed in Europe (particularly Eastern Europe) a practice of whipping women during certain religious occasions with branches torn from trees as a part of fertility rites. I don’t know whether this was christian or prechristian in origin. It would make sense to me that Bieito could wrap these two images into one symbol to indicate the interrelation of religious, economic and sexual motivations that occur in the opera. Btw. the confluence of economics and sex as motivating factors is being used today in the US in expository treatments of slavery.

      • Camille

        Well, that’s interesting and original limb to stand on and I await other interpretations, and hopefully grimoaldo, who will be attending, will redact a bit from the printed materials and or pre-concert lectures--if they do that sort of thing in München, IDK.

        Unfortunately, I spent the first half of the opera searching through stacks to find the score to La Juive which I had mislaid, so did not watch a lot of the stage development but only listened. I wondered about Rachel’s green dress as well and why the choice of this colour as opposed to, say RED, what with all its scarlet woman associations. I was also very deeply shocked by the shearing of Rachel’s hair (OMG I thought it was her real hair all the way through until that point), a common practise of ritualistic humiliation which I, as a woman, find far more appalling than the rest of the tortures Rachel submitted to. There was a graphic scene involving this and much worse from the film Malena, starring Monica Bellucci, from about a dozen years ago. Very graphic and very brutal. I also wondered why the modus morendi was changed from vat of hot boiling goose fat to fiery cage….? Is Rachel in training as Brünnehilde or Norma here?

        You know, the switching business also brings to mind The Virgin Spring, which I only have just seen last year for the first time and is still graphically fresh in the memory— although done in an entirely different context and instead to a male character.

        Thank you, jackoh. Food for thought. If any opera screamed out for Rege, it would be this one. Showing a pretty postcard from the shores of Lake Konstanz is going to not cut it these days.

        • Batty Masetto

          Camille, the branches first appeared during the Christmas scene, presumably as a kind of surrogate or metaphor for pine boughs or whatever. So in the language of the production she was being whipped with branches of Christmas trees. (One of the wags in the Chat said it’s a good thing they didn’t use holly.)

          • Camille

            Christmas? Did Père Noël make an appearance? Jesus, I sure missed a lot looking for that score and hy the time I found it I was too interested in the staging so lost out on both ends. Oh well, there has got to be a rationale somewhere in there. Did they excise the ballet, too or was there some kind of hootchy kootchy going on at gun point somewhere?

            I thought the ritualistic shaming of the Regisseur was a half-hearted affair for I was all ready for a big Buh-Bird convention but, it seemed to die down quickly.

            I’m still a little freaked out about her hair, though, as I really did think it was her OWN she was wearing. Brave lady and a real pro, La Kurzak. Hope she gets that wildly wiggling tongue to stop wiggling and into correct position. Very talented musically and very intelligent to learn such a long score so well and so rapidly. This was also the best work I’d heard yet from Osborn, whom I’d heard as Arnold and not much cared for. Now perhaps I’ll go hear him in TELL.

            • laddie

              I don’t know but I thought they slipped a wig on her sometime backstage prior to the shearing. It just looked more like a wig while they cut than it did prior.

            • Batty Masetto

              Definitely a wig, though unusually for BSO, a pretty good one. I noticed a major change in her hair before her scene in prison. Where earlier it had lots of bounce and flow, suddenly it hung limp, almost as though it was wet. I wondered about the change at the time, until all was revealed at the hair-cutting.

            • manou

              Kurzak has this pronounced widow’s peak (think evil Queen in Snow White) and they did replicate it quite well with the wig, but yes, the texture of the hair was noticeably different before they chopped it off.

            • grimoaldo

              I am flattered by your confidence in me dear Camille, but I doubt that I will be able to elucidate the meanings behind the production for you. I am not terribly interested in that to tell the truth, I am going (in a few hours) to hear the music, and especially Alagna singing it, live. All I ask is that the director doesn’t make the singers sing from the back of the stage.
              Lots of posters don’t like this opera, it seems, (“boring!”) I think it is very nice of Munich to put it on just for me and Camille and the handful of others who have any idea what it is and enjoy the music (and libretto! written by Scribe who I paid tribute to at the surprising boulevard and hotel named in his honour in Paris). I would add my best friend, who I just had the joy of seeing in England to those who would appreciate a production of La Juive, but even though he has been a dancer in many “modern” or regie productions of operas at the ROH, he won’t go to see them or watch them on DVD or webcasts, he thinks any production not strictly in the period the libretto sets it and that does not follow the stage directions of the libretto is atrocious crap by definition. He loves Meyerbeer and Halevy and Adam and Auber as I do but just listens to the music or plays them through on piano reductions ( he is a wonderful pianist). He would only watch productions of them if they are staged like they are “supposed” to be. I don’t argue with him about it, I am past the point of really caring what the productions are like as long as the singers can come to the front of the stage.
              Just went to the Glyptothek and the museum of ancient art across the street, what a mind-blowing experience for anyone into Greek and Roman art.
              Love breakfasts in Germany! Worth going all the way to Germany just to have breakfast. Selection of different delicious breads, sausages, cold meats, smoked salmon, salads, cheeses, fruit, yum yum yum!

            • Camille

              Hahahahaha!!! Yes, it IS very nice of München to put this opera on just for us and we do thank them and Herr Bachler in particular!

              grimoaldo--I pretty much know your feelings on the subject, not dissimilar to my own, however being pragmatic about it all and realising the difficulties in marketing those older unfamiliar and now unpopular works, I just bite it, and take what I can get, and say thank you and amen. If you would just redact a bit from the program(me) for us--that’s all. The day of the webcast I was not focussing very much on the staging and going in and out of the room and busy, so really lost some of it.

              I’m glad you saw your friend in England and glad the Frühstück is so good there. I am not much for breakfast as am mostly nauseated by the prospect of the coming day--just too galling a this point. Anyway, I hope that Alagna, who is variable, will be in his zone and put it over for you. I am hoping he will take this role around the globe with him (and his wife/girlfriend) and promote it as it suits him well at this career trajctory point. The opera needs a champion and who better than he, with all due respect to Shicoff’s efforts on its behalf.

              What is the word on the ground about the BREXIT that you heard? I am rather astounded by it all and don’t know what to make of any of it.

              Ciao 4 now!!

            • grimoaldo

              Well Camille dear I don’t really feel this is the place for me to pontificate on British politics. I will say that the Brits I know, and that’s quite a lot of people, are all alarmed and depressed by the results of the (quite unnecessary in many peoples’ opinions) referendum on the EU. The general feeling is that the Prime Minister decided on that referendum for what he thought would be his political advantage but it backfired spectacularly and he has resigned.
              On the subject of my experience this evening, I had seen photos of the outside of the Bavarian State Opera house and the auditorium in webcasts, but I was not prepared for the stunning magnificence of the bits of the place where you just walk around before the show and during the interval. Good Lord Almighty, beyond description, you really gotta be there to have any idea what it is like.
              Completely sold out, desperate people holding signs on the steps leading up to the entrance begging for tickets. Quite a dressy crowd even though it started at 6 pm.
              I have never seen a production by Calixto Bieito before, only bits on youtube etc and I was prepared for something outrageous. I mean he is notorious for starting Ballo with the chorus of men sitting on the loo, etc. But not a bit, it was a production that was very respectful to this (imo) great work. Sombre, thought-provoking and really utterly compelling as theatre, he got terrific acting performances out of his cast, especially the ladies and especially Kurzak. Actually one of the best nights of opera as drama I have ever experienced, which came as a most welcome surprise.
              Yes I agree with Batty, I did notice the chorus sing about it being a festival of Weihnachts, so it is Christmas Eve, or coming up to Christmas Eve or something and they are beating the Jewish girl with Christmas greenery , holly or bits of Christmas trees or whatever.
              Very very powerful sad pitiful and disturbing depiction of Christian persecution of Jews through the ages, I pay tribute to the librettist Scribe for confronting these issues of religious fanaticism and the suffering it has caused in his libretti for French grand opera such as “Vasco da Gama” (L’Africaine) which I saw in Berlin in October with Alagna, Les Huguenots, and others. People think,insofar as they think of them at all, of Scribe’s libretti as trashy dreck, but I feel it is most commendable that he tried to get people to confront their culture’s attitudes to Jews and other persecuted minorities.
              I was blown away at the very beginning by the huge sound of the pipe organ and the offstage chorus singing the chorale, I cannot imagine that had anything like the same impact on the webcast or broadcast as it did being there. An excellent cast of singers.Vera-Lotte Böcker not just chirping away prettily as Eudoxie but writhing around on the floor in distress. I really enjoyed John Osborn’s singing as the caddish Prince. Terrific sonorous bass Ain Anger and Johannes Kammler also very good. Alagna was terrific until his big scene.”Rachel, quand du Seigneur” was sung movingly but without the shattering impact I remember from Shicoff and others. The climactic high note was gingerly touched, not held and reveled in, and then he cracked a few high notes in the following sort of cabaletta and was loudly, and cruelly, booed from the gallery. But we all cheered him at his curtain calls.
              But the star of the show,as is only fitting I suppose as it is the title role, was Aleksandra Kurzak. I was disappointed when Opolais dropped out, I have never seen her live, and was looking forward to it. But seeing Kurzak it was hard to imagine how she could have been bettered, or ever intended for the lighter, higher role of Eudoxie. She was really terrific all the way through, super acting performance, most pitiful and affecting, great low notes, nice heft to the voice, very dramatic, not at all an ingenue type thing. I have never seen her live before, only a couple of broadcasts and I was not impressed, I don’t remember what they were, quite forgettable. I feel this must have been a sort of breakthrough for her, it was very sweet to see how pleased Algana was at the thunderous ovation she got at her curtain call, he embraced and kissed her.
              I agree Camille, I hope Alagna will take this role around the world, with Kurzak as Rachel, and in this riveting production, which I felt was theatre at the highest level.

            • Camille

              BRAVO, grimoaldo!

              I’m standing up as I say this. A delightful report chock filled with good things.

              I am hoping this will both be a break out success for Kurzak and with her and the clout Alagna has, this opera will cut a swath through the world theaters.

              It is wonderful that this trip turned out so successfully and I wish you a safe return home.

              Thank you so very, very much, and I am so happy for you after the disappointment with the Pagliacci this past spring. You win some and you lose some, and you cut your losses, is all.

              Best regards from me.

            • Batty Masetto

              Grimmie I’m so happy you had such a good time in Munich, my former stomping grounds. Yes, the Glyptothek and ancient art collection are stunning and under-appreciated (like Halévy)?

              The BSO was my regular hangout when I was a student there and I completely agree about its gorgeous, restrained elegance. They didn’t use to bar people from the auditorium till the last minute the way they do now, but it’s still a wonderful experience. And I was bowled over by the production. La Juive is one of those things I was saving for my old age, and since old age is now here, I’m very glad this was my first experience of it, even if only over the Web.

            • grimoaldo

              Thank you Camille and Batty for your kind messages! it is funny how one can make true friends on a forum like this. You are not old Batty, my godson’s grandad was at the wedding in France and he is 96, now *that* is old. I helped him on the flight back to England as his daughter was staying in France and she had booked wheelchair assistance for him but he just said he didn’t need it. Queue after queue and I kept telling him “go and sit down on that chair over there and I will wave at you when I get to the front” but he said “Oh no, it’s OK, I like standing up.” I offered to carry his carry on bag for him and he said “no, I’m OK”, and he was, too. Awesome!

            • The Barberini Faun! I must go back to Munich at least once before I die. But there are so many places one could say the same of…

  • I don’t remember being bored with it in Paris. Of course, at my age I don’t remember much at all. I’ll go and re-read what I wrote about it at the time.

    • Voilà : “I always thought the secret of that rare event, an exciting evening at the opera, lay in everything, for once, being right: a great work, a great production, great acting, singing and playing… With La Juive at the Bastille we had an obscure work -- not played here since 1934 -- by an obscure composer, with a dreadful libretto; a dubious production; the scheduled tenor falling sick at the eleventh hour and some very dodgy singing by his replacement… Yet, opera being the exotic and irrational entertainment it is, the evening ended in triumph, even, more or less, for the stand-in.”

      • Who was it who said “Logic has little to do with the opera world”?

        • Camille

          Did anyone of note really say that? Joseph Kerman? The “exotic and irrational entertainment” bit is famously Dr Johnson’s, however.

          Correction: Neil Shicoff. I always get his named mixed up. Sorry now not to have seen it.

      • gustave of montreal

        Did she end up in the hot cauldron ?

        • Camille

          Non, cher M gustave— they barbequed her in a cage — pauvre fille — like a rack of lamb, peu ou moins — pas de huile — et je n’en vous sauriez en plus qu’à dire sauf que c’était beaucoup de TROP.

          • aulus agerius

            I read recently that ISIS enthusiasts in N Iraq executed 19 women in similar fashion, viz public immolation in iron cages. Perhaps they took inspiration from M. B, or vv.

      • Camille

        When was that NPW? And is there a SEARCH function on your blog.

        You are probably sleeping at this hour so I’ll wait.

        Interesting night at the opera you had, that one. One just never knows when and where the magic may happen. Mostly, it doesn’t but when it does it usually sneaks up like a thief in the night, just as old age does come to think of it. À bientôt!

        • It was in February 2007 at the Bastille, with Anick Massis, Anna-Caterina Antonacci and Chris Merritt, and yes, the blog has a working search function.

          • redbear

            It was a continuing chapter in the French rediscovering their own musical history and it is one of the great stories of my lifetime. In the post-WWII period, somebody told the French that their music was crap (Rolf Lieberman?) and just let it lie. And they did. Then, in the mid-80s, there was a guy who took over the theater in Compiegne (this theater was built for Napoleon III on the site of the Carmelite monastery of certain operatic fame). Philippe Jourdan almost single-handedly began staging French opera and people started driving the hour and half trip north from Paris. His first was Saint-Saen’s Henry VIII. It was the very beginning of a new era for the French opera which still continues to grow to this day. Recording from that time, like Meyerbeer’s Dinorah, are still available on Amazon.

            • And later the Opéra Comique joined in, and the Palazzetto Bru Zane with some very interesting recordings.

            • Camille

              I cannot thank you enough for mention of the theatre at Compiègne as it was their production, I now see, which I used to acquaint myself--in segments--of Henri VIII when preparing to encounter this lyric work at Bard a few summers ago. I could not understand to whom you referred to in “Philippe Jourdan”, thinking it would have been Maestro Philippe Jordan, but he was clearly too young to be conducting or anything else in the late eighties. After googling away, I stumbled onto PIERRE Jourdan+Théâtre de Compiègne+Henri VIII et voilà!

              Since I had watched it in segments and not seen the opening credits I was unaware of the significance of this productions, as well as the who/what/where/and how it actually took place. What a wonderful story about the rebirth of this 19th c. Theatre, as well, the laurels all go to Monsieur Jourdan for his vision and leadership. Now I am fully aware, you may be certain I’ll keep my eye out for any of their productions. It is nigh on a miracle to have such a production of this work, neglected just because of its problematical and unpopular “historical drama” classification which has long ceased to be en vogue.

              I was aware of the Opéra-Comique’s developments thru Monsieur œdipe. That director has since left the theatre, though, and wonder if the resurrections continue?

          • Camille

            Oh lordy--Chris Merritt strikes again! You know, I heard him almost exactly ten years previously, in May 1997, give one of the most dire filth performances I’ve, EVER sadly been a party too, in the Rusalka. Too bad Rusalky didn’t kiss him in the first act and get t over with! It absolutely boggles the brain to think he was STILL performing that way that much later, and in that same condition. It also boggles to think he was once absolutely superb, back in the eighties. I wonder what the hell happened with him?

            I believe I’ve seen portions of that weird set and Massis vs. Antonacci on youtube. Reminded me of our old set for Don Carlo.

            I found your Search function--Thanks--have to go to WEB version, that’s all.

  • Their latest issue is Gounod’s Cinq-Mars, with Mathias Vidal, Tassis Christoyannis, Véronique Gens, etc., and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester under Ulf Schirmer.

    • Camille

      Thanks for the mention of the Cinq-Mars as I’ve long been curious about it. If any of the rest of the score is as pretty as this:

      —I’d certainly like to hear it at least once. Interesting story, besides.

      Wonder if anyone will ever get the gumption to revive Gounod’s Polyceute?

      • I got a great deal of pleasure out of their issue of Herculanum, so in the hope of pleasing myself again I’ve ordered Cinq Mars.

        • Camille

          Monsieur NPW,

          The mention of Félicien David brought to mind this excellent book which discusses, (not however the Herculanum you mention other than just a word on his librettist), some of his other works, in Hervé Lacombe’s “Les voies de l’opera français au XIXe siècle”, translated into English by Edward Schneider and published in 2001 by UCPress as “The keys to French opera in the nineteenth century”, surely, not nearly so poetic a title, but there you have it. [ISBN 0-520-21719-5.
          David’s other works, La Perle du Brésil and Le Désert are discussed at least a little in a section regarding “exoticism” in a section entity “Poetic Expression and Musical Expression”, Chapter 6.

          This, just in the case you are interested in knowing a little more about this composer whose music has just barely survived into our times., but was once popular. Myself, I can think of one item of his, something from La Perle du Brésil which I’ve heard Sumi Jo sing, in her scrupulously excellent fashion, and which I liked very much.

          So, I wonder why it is you would like his Herculanum or if it is just for that particular performance and set of performers. Just mildly curious, that’s all.

          I was thinking there was a nice reprint of something form Herculanum, but I was mistaken, it was from Le Desert, in case you care to find it, just so you know!

          And to anyone at all interested in knowing something more about French opera of the period of the Second Empire (1852 — 1870) in particular, and above all, anyone doing research the opera Les Pecheurs de Perles, the case example which the author holds up as a typical hypothetical proof of the process of creating an opera and the aftermath of its life on the boards, this could be an invaluable guide. It brings one face to face with the life and climate of those times and the harsh realities of the theatrical world, including some very interesting data on the box office theatre receipts of the Théâtre-Lyrique from September — November 1863, (the dates which correspond to the opening of Les Pêcheurs, and which include many repetitions of Les Noces de Figaro--success-- and the rather disappointing opening night receipts of my beloved Hector’s Les Troyens, distinctly underperforming). Les Troyens DID pick up speed immediately in the performances which followed but never could clobber Les Noces. Another surprising revival at the time was Weber’s Obéron, which did not do poorly, either.
          What proved to be boffo at the box office? Why that old crowd pleaser and all-around audience favorite L’Epreuve villageoise. WHAT? QUOI? HEIN? You never heard of it, you say? Well, I had read the title somewhere or other, but certainement never heard a note, either. Times change and tastes vary.
          “O tempura! O morays!!”

          What I maybe like best about this book is how the author bravely charts his course right from the beginning in the Introduction”

          “Nineteenth-century French opera suffers on the whole from a poor reputation out of a considerable repertory, only a few works such as Faust and Carmen appear to have stood the test of time. In approaching this subject, we must discard critical assessments inherited from Germany during the era of triumphant Wagnerism and adopt different criteria. French opera rarely aspired to sublimity, intensity, and depth of expression or density of composition. The preference was for the entertaining, pleasant, subtle, and light—and also for something that would surprise and impress. Bizet, and Gounod before him, would seem to fall between the two extremes. While it reflects particular attention to the orchestra, to the unfolding of the drama, to inventiveness, and to the quality of the writing,Carmenunquestionably remains part of the long opéra-comique tradition, particularly in terms of its structure and its lighter passages. The origins of this fusion are to be sought in the position of opera in midcentury France and in the variety of approaches it was taking.

          Far from being the result of a free creative flowering, nineteenth century French opera, perhaps more than any other art form, was governed by a complex set of codes and practices, and by a system of production that intruded on every level of composition, preparation, and performance. It was organized in keeping with a genuine system, with powerful structures, whose diverse components interacted and were governed by rules sometimes far removed from purely aesthetic considerations. Each stage in this system had its principal actors: the authors in the writing and composition of the wrok, the interpreters in its performance, and the public and the press in its reception. In addition, there were seemingly secondary players such as theatre directors, publishers, and politicians.”

          Amen to that, Monsieur Lacombe and Grand Merci for expressing what needs and requires to be said regarding French opera vis-à-vis German opera.

          Anyway, I love this book, and I highly highly recommend it if you are in the mood for a Second Empire Vacation. Lots of pretty pictures, too.

          • Camille

            Sorry, another italic fail but this time not enough. Should end at this point:
            In addition, there were seemingly secondary players such as theatre directors, publishers, and politicians.”

            Fire the typist.

            • I second that: you can’t call adding interest to a public thread “butting in”!

              Camille, what you say of Lacombe’s book reminds me of the notes suppled with Herculanum: lots if info on what was performed most often at the time.

              That Bru Zane issue of Herculanum is excellently performed, and personally, even if its period charms aren’t what’s in fashion today, I don’t care: I’d love to have it live and would find it far more interesting fare than another Donizetti or Bellini.

              This thread has reminded me I bought Le Mage as well and haven’t listened to it more than once. So out it will now come and I’ll pay more attention. Cinq Mars is on its way.

            • Oh damn I just seconded something that has been said yet. Sorry about that!

            • Le Mage playing now.

            • Double damn. “Hasn’t been said yet.”

            • Camille

              Let me know about Le Mage, Monsieur NPW, whenever you will have come to any conclusion about it.

              It’s just I wonder why it has been so deep=sixed when Le Roi de Lahore, a much earlier work and probably not as rich, has been resurrected, and this one has languished. Now I no longer recall what was once of interest in the score for me, but do still recall my flabbergasted amazement at it discovery in a stack of Massent. A curious case. The mezzo-soprano is an extra bad girl in this one, isn’t she?

            • Isn’t she always?

            • Notes that come with the CDs outline the concatenation of circumstances that kind-of-sidelined Le Mage, and in a chapter (with these Bru Zane things you get a whole book) called “Le Mage : une résurrection amplement justifiée”, add:

              “Le Mage apparaît donc comme un opéra au style composite qui témoigne de l’éclectisme de Massenet, pierre de touche de son esthétique. Mais il porte aussi le la marque personnelle de son auteur dont le langage mélodique reste immédiatement reconnaissable, notamment dans les scènes amoureuses : les lignes vocales, à la fois sinueuses et conjointes, épousent au plus près les inflexions de la langue française sans pour autant exclure quelques épanchements lyriques. Et sur ce plan Le Mage contient des épisodes inspirés lui permettant de rivaliser sans conteste avec d’autres ouvrages plus connus du compositeur stéphanois. Aussi sa résurrection s’impose-t-elle aujourd’hui pour mieux apprécier l’ouvre de Massenet dans son ensemble.”

              I always admire Massenet’s “métier” -- his craft, though it may not always be in the service of music of a kind widely admired at present. The problem is that to make it wholly convincing you need an outstanding cast -- it’s no good putting Massenet on at the local school or amateur operatic society, nor even with a second-rate cast at the Salle Favart. These Bru Zane recordings remind us why these operas were such successes in their day.

            • Camille

              Well now, sometimes they just suffer and are hapless victims of circumstance: take Laura Adorno in La Gioconda, for example.

              And there is that dear little creature Mignon, who was a true victim of abduction and having been pimped out at an early age as a performer, only to be truly miraculously saved at the end (well, depending upon which ending you go with!). Similarly, the blighted life of Léonor de Guzman of La Favorite, who was taken from her home and family by that lustful Roi Alphonse, shame on him! She was just a girl who got marked BAD, but really wasn’t at all, just a malheureuse.

              So, there are a few good girls amongst the ladies of the penitentiary, sprinkled in just for variety’s sake. There is a long-sufferer in Bellini’s La Straniera, whose name escapes me at the moment, and you know, there’s Fenena the goody-two-shoes-girl of Nabucco whose big sister soprano is a bitch on wheels. Sooooo, it happens. Look, somebody’s gotta be the bitch and it seems the more chest in the voice, the more a woman appears to be sexually active, and THAT just HAD to be stomped out and extinguished like a wildfire in 19th c. mœurs. It’s unNATURAL!!! SHOCKING!!! Like cigarette smoking on the boards of the l’opera-Comique.

            • Well in Le Mage she’s a priestess of Djahi, “divinité malfaisante de la volupté” so what can you expect?

            • Camille

              Grand Merci!!!!

              The thought of “pierre de touche” so appeals to me that I may rename myself “Pierrette de NiTouchePas”!

              Those kind of big old explanatory books are absolutely de rigueur with these sorts of things. The Opera Rara edition of Les Vêpres Siciliennes is similar in that respect and made up for the exorbitant cost of an album where the singing is competent and not a lot more.

              So much fun to hear about these things and you are so kind!!! Vous fêtes too gentille!

            • Camille

              Hahahaha!! Vous êtes trop gentille!!

              although a fête may be just the thing to celebrate all these operas!

            • Camille

              Djahi, “divinité malfaisante de la volupté”

              What a FAB screen name, if I hadn’t already my own moniker!

              There was just no one who could mix up SEX and RELIGION like that good old Reprobate of the Boulevard, Monsieur Jules. So titillating and right on the edge all the time but always JUST saving himself by not going past that line. What must Monsieur Gounod thought of him and his ludicrouslubricité? It must have been so much fun to have been in Paris in the naughty nineties…the mind reels and spins at the idea!

            • Camille

              Le Mage apparaît!!

              Forgot about this petit bon-bon from Rolandito, one of the very first things I ever heard him sing and noticed, although a pleasing voice, it seemed amped up to the nth degree in the studio. No matter, a lovely introduction to this music.

              I LOVE it! Thanks so MUCH! Le Mage this far doesn’t sound quite a sportentous as does Esclarmonde which makes me dissolve into a little pool of whimpering laughter every time I hear it EXCEPT the recording our Jungfer Marianne put on some months, the one from San Francisco, which I absolutely liked.

            • My excuse for posting this is that it’s a little-performed work in French, and I’m sticking to it. The truth is just that I like it.

          • Dolciamente Pipo

            Sorry to butt in here, but I am such a huge fan of the Ediciones Singulares/Palazzetto Bru Zane survey of rare French operas, that I just have to chime in. For one thing, the sets are beautifully produced with lots of documentation including full English translations of the libretti…and how often do you get that with recordings of obscure repertoire? For that reason alone, they are invaluable. Of the four I’ve purchased and listened to so far, ‘Herculaneum’ was probably my least favorite…though I was very interested to hear it. I think it’s a matter of expectations. It features an important demonic element, and once you’ve gone down that road with Berlioz, it’s just really hard to go back. The orchestral writing and melodic invention can seem quite thin and simplistic compared with what came later, so you have to do your best to take it for what it is. But, as I say, it’s just so great to have these recordings to which provide broader context for all the works we know and love.
            The others I’ve sampled are Massenet’s ‘Le Mage’ which is a hundred different kinds of fun, and Saint-Saens’ ‘Les Barbares’…which may be one of the few (only?) site specific operas, written for the Roman theatre at Orange in Provence which is the actual setting for the plot. As it turned out, it premiered at the Paris Opera. Again, it’s so interesting to have something of Saint-Saens that’s not ‘Samson et Dalila’, and this one couldn’t be more different. It’s a prime example of French Wagnerism. The highlight is a duet in the second act that’s clearly modeled on the Liebesnacht in Tristan. And lastly, Salieri’s ‘Les Danaides’ which sounds very much like Gluck, and in which the female chorus murders the male chorus and spends the last act in hell.
            Who could resist that? Check it out!

            • Camille

              You are not butting at all and your information is more than welcome as I see very clearly I have gotten lazy and relied to heavily upon ArkivMusic, and frankly, I am awash in too many CDs at present and planning a purge — well mainly my husband’s!!

              “And once you’ve gone done that road with Berlioz, it’s just really hard to go back!”!!!
              HAHAHAHAHA! Understatement of the century. Nobody does the devil like my boy Hector.

              Thank you SO MUCHO for this input as I would like to know more about Saint-Saens’ other works, the one I am curious about is the that which he wrote for Sybil Sanderson, a light work as it were, Phyrné. He was apparently quite content with her in the role, but that could have been for a variety of reasons, so, one doesn’t know. The Henri VIII was a big pleasant surprise, despite the weak singer as protagonist, unfortunately, but there is a lot of beautiful stuff therein.

              Thank you Dolciamente so much once again I am so glad you spoke of these, some of which I have had an inkling of but did not really know all that mucho.

              There was a question about the ending to Don Carlo which you put forth on that thread and I was going to answer it but was to lazy as it would have required thinking, so I will get back to it another time as there are a number of endings for the final act, and am not at all sure we get the best one. Well, how could one ever know which is the best? I always say, “First thought, best thought”, and so many times that turns out to be the case but this opera is a HUGE conundrum, a croce e delizia to end all!

            • Camille

              Oh, I just notice Le Mage! That one is a fave of Mr Belfagor and we have had a little discussion at some point in time. I actually uncovered the score once in the Berkeley library, and I still remember standing there, astounded, thinking WTF is THIS?? It was a beautiful old edition, besides, and I just loved what I saw of it. I guess it has to at least be as good as Le Roi de Lahore, which HAS had an afterlife with the Bonynges, so if that worked…..why not pour on THE MAGICIAN? Thanks again, you have given me a great big sampler of bon-bons.

          • Camille I’m in a place so remote I can only reply by smartphone and it’s too fiddle-arsing. I hope to find time when next near a networm.

            • Camille

              Don’t worry about fiddle-arcing. It is okay, whenever and wherever. I am highly unreliable myself, so no es problema!!

          • Camille

            Thank you so much Monsieur Hippolyte! I used to always go there--they have saved me so many dollars, but I’ve gotten out of the habit. Perhaps I shall try again now that summer is here and icey Lincoln Center is no longer so forbidding. Merci!!

            Oh, and I misspelled the opera, it is POLYEUCTE, NOT Polyceute, which sounds like a plethora of whales!!!

            Now I have just got to satisfy my curiosity of WHY this one was “the sorrow of my Life’ for Maestro Gounod. After so much recognition and so much success and many plaudits, it is a tad bizarre that something went this wrong, and with one of the reliable primadonna indicators for success of that era, Mme. Gabrielle Krauss. Okay, I’m on the case.

            And here, I should have corrected it this way the first time. The following comes from Monsieur Lacombe’s book, in his Introduction on page 1. I must say he doesn’t waste any time nor mince any words, and that I like, and since his opening statement is so important anyway, it bears the repetition!

            “Nineteenth-century French opera suffers on the whole from a poor reputation out of a considerable repertory, only a few works such as “Faust” and “Carmen” appear to have stood the test of time. In approaching this subject, we must discard critical assessments inherited from Germany during the era of triumphant Wagnerism and adopt different criteria. French opera rarely aspired to sublimity, intensity, and depth of expression or density of composition. The preference was for the entertaining, pleasant, subtle, and light—and also for something that would surprise and impress. Bizet, and Gounod before him, would seem to fall between the two extremes. While it reflects particular attention to the orchestra, to the unfolding of the drama, to inventiveness, and to the quality of the writing, “Carmen” unquestionably remains part of the long opéra-comique tradition, particularly in terms of its structure and its lighter passages. The origins of this fusion are to be sought in the position of opera in midcentury France and in the variety of approaches it was taking.

            Far from being the result of a free creative flowering, nineteenth century French opera, perhaps more than any other art form, was governed by a complex set of codes and practices, and by a system of production that intruded on every level of composition, preparation, and performance. It was organized in keeping with a genuine system, with powerful structures, whose diverse components interacted and were governed by rules sometimes far removed from purely aesthetic considerations. Each stage in this system had its principal actors: the authors in the writing and composition of the work, the interpreters in its performance, and the public and the press in its reception. In addition, there were seemingly secondary players such as theatre directors, publishers, and politicians.”

          • ding ding

            Herculanum is on at Wexford this autumn.


          • By coincidence, the editorial in the July issue of France’s Opéra Magazine praises the Palazzetto Bru Zane for its work for rare French works and says: “After Dietsch’s Le Vaisseau fantôme, Gouvy’s Oedipe à Colonne, Massenet’s Le Mage, Joncières’ Dimitri, Saint-Saën’s Les Barbares, David’s Herculanum or Gounod’s Cinq Mars, we await, in 2016-2017, Lalo and Coquard’s La Jacquerie, Hérold’s Le Pré-aux-Clercs and Méhul’s Uthal.

            Further inside the magazine, an article headed “The Palazzetto’s next surprises” lists upcoming performances of two Saint Saëns operas, Proserpine and Le Timbre d’argent, the former to be staged in Munich and Versailles this autumn, the latter at the Opéra Comique in 2017. Lemoyne’s Phèdre will be staged in Caen and Paris next spring. And, the “apotheosis”, Halévy’s La Reine de Chypre will be performed at the Théâtre de Champs Elysées in June, with Véronique Gens. Proserpine, Le Timbre d’argent and La Reine de Chypre will all be issued on CD.

            • Krunoslav

              Lemoyne’s Phèdre

              With early morning eyes, I read this initially as ” Leontyne’s Phèdre”.

              “The emotion!”

            • Camille

              “The emotion!”
              “Juste ciel! qu’ai-je fait aujourd’hui! Mon époux va paraître, et son fils avec lui ! Je verrai le témoin de ma flamme adultère.”

              Ja ja, I can just hear Leontyne intoning it now!

              Mon cher Monsieur NPW!!!

              Once more, this particular thread has turned into a treasure trove for me! Merci autre fois et mille fois encore!!! I am bookmarking and filing this all away for safekeeping in the future.

              You might “go for it” and go to Ireland to hear Herculaneum on 1st November, if so inclined?

            • Mmm… I’m afraid the damp might give me rhumatism.

            • Talking of rarities, though not French, Radio France is giving Mascagni’s Iris in Montpellier at the end of July.

            • Talking of Phèdre, not Lemoyne, nor Leontyne, but Jessye:

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

              Not to be forgotten:

            • Camille

              When in Ireland, wear your best Scottish cashmere. That’s what they create it for, anti-rheumatism clothing. Throw in some alpaca and you’re set! Don’t let a bit of damp dampen your spirits! Think of the Irish breakfasts--all that blood sausage and Bushmills! And runny eggs and soggy potatoes!!

            • grimoaldo

              ” And, the “apotheosis”, Halévy’s La Reine de Chypre will be performed at the Théâtre de Champs Elysées in June, with Véronique Gens”

              Let’s see, nearly a year away, maybe I can somehow manage to be there……..

            • To be honest I can’t think of anything that would actually get me to Wexford.

            • armerjacquino

              That’s a pity! Co. Wexford is utterly beautiful.

            • I get enough of that kind of thing in Wales every Christmas.

            • Krunoslav

              One of my seminal influences growing up!

              The 1968 film of PHEADRE with Marie Bell and an Hippolyte one quarter her age:

              He (Claude Giraud) enters around 1:25, she ( age given as 68) just after 7:27 and really gets going around 10:02.

      • Evenhanded


        Camille: Gounod’s Polyeucte was revived as part of the Festival della Valle d’Itria in 2004 and a recording was issued on the Dynamic label. The cast is variable, but Luca Grassi as Severe is worth hearing. The recording is available both on disc and digitally from Amazon.


        • Camille

          Well, thanks!

          I am deeply suspicious of those recordings from that place but maybe I’ll chance it as such is my curiosity about this work which Gounod called “the sorrow of my life”. What could have gone so terribly wrong with it, especially as he had a lifetime of experience in the theatre at that date? Especially as he was such a religious sort, it must have been painful to see this particular thematic material bite the dust.

          Appreciate the thought and thank you, Even!

          • Hippolyte

            According to its website, the New York Public Library owns two circulating copies of the Gounod Polyeucte CD on Dynamic--a cheaper, safe option perhaps?

    • Camille

      Mathias Vidal, the tenor who sang the protagonist part of Cinq-Mars, has posted some excerpts on youtube, I just discovered yesterday, so there is at least something other now than the various versions of the beautiful “O nuit resplendissante”, such a lovely, flowing aria.

      Thanks to all for discussing this repertoire, which is so outmoded now but not without manifold charms which warrant discovery, at least for me and for a few others I suspect.

      • “Manifold charms”. You can say that again, and to me that includes Herculanum.

      • “Lieux funestes” -- marvellous.


    • I see Bru Zane are going to issue Benjamin Godard’s opera Dante.

      • Camille

        I noted that, and thank you for the reminder. I have always been fond of Godard’s music, the few songs I was familiar with, and listened to a bit of the big love duet aver Gens et Tenor yesterday and it sounded all right but for someone who was an anti-Wagnerite, well, I don’t know. I would have to listen a lot more times.

        The Bru Zane name was just a name before you all brought this up yesterday and I am so pleased to know more and to realize what I had missed.

        So many operas, so little time left!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


        • Cin Mars has arrived but I haven’t had time at home to hear it yet. I htink I’ll put Le Mage and Cinq Mars and, why not, Herculanum on my iPad for Greece this summer and get to know them better on the ferry from Pireaus to Syros, then Naxos.

        • grimoaldo

          Yes,NPW-Paris, thank you so much for telling us about all that. As a lover of what might be termed “faded dreck” I really appreciate it.

          • Camille

            We can start a group-- “Divas of the Faded Dreck Divan”, — or something along those lines.

            Now then, La Reine de Chypre, which I have happened onto in the biblioteca, does go on and on and on, and I’d have to pick it up again to peruse in order to find something I’d possibly fasten onto with interest. I dunno though, that was only a couple times over fifteen years ago, and my tastes vary from epoch to epoch.
            Anyway, yet another vehicle for that limited vocal compass and tear up the stage talents of that tempestuous diva, Rosine Stolz, the terror of l’Opéra, once upon a time and long ago and far away….

      • ding ding

        The Godard is here for a few days more.

        • Camille

          So noted, ding ding, and am happily listening to it at present. I think it said it was available until July 8 or 9th.

          Thank you so much for appearing in a puff of smoke to alert me (us) to this, as otherwise I’d not have had opportunity to hear this work which, if not earth shattering, is certainly pleasant enough and enjoyable for those inclined to this sort of musical mode.

          Also, in midst of finding it, I stumbled onto a BBC3 program(me) about the precarious current state of the actual Herculaneum which will hopefully be preserved as best as possibly can be done. Hope Vesuvius doesn’t erupt again, or all bets are off.

  • Cicciabella

    So sorry I missed this. But, seek and ye shall find…

  • Oh lord my typing. Sorry. Also, it looks like video postings no longer actually post…