Paris. Champs-Elysées Theater. 14-XI-2022. Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880): La Périchole, opéra bouffe in three acts (1874) to a libretto by Henry Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Direction and costumes by Laurent Pelly. Scenography: Chantal Thomas. Lights: Michel Le Borgne. With: Marina Viotti, La Périchole; Stanilas de Barbeyrac, Piquillo; Alexandre Duhamel, Don Andres; Rodolphe Briand, Count Miguel Panatellas; Lionel Lhote, Don Pedro; Chloe Briot, Guadalena / Manuelita; Alix Le Saux, Berginella/Ninetta; Eléonore Pancrazi, Mastrilla / Brambilla; Nathalie Perez, Frasquinella. Chorus of the National Opera of Bordeaux. The Musicians of the Louvre, direction: Marc Minkowski
After Parisian life last year, it was the turn of La perichole of the same Jacques Offenbach to perform on the stage of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, supported by Laurent Pelly and Marc Minkowskitwo specialists of the genre.
La Perrichole hadn’t walked the avenue Montaigne stage since 1984 in the staging of Jérôme Savary, which shows how eagerly awaited this new production, after that of the Tréteaux lyriques in January and that of the Opéra-Comique in Mayespecially since entrusted to a very seasoned duo: Laurent Pelly who has already staged more than a dozen works by Offenbach, of which he knows all the facets and Marc Minkowski who made the first recording on historical instruments of this same opéra bouffe (1874 version) for the Bru Zane label in 2019. Abundance of goods does not harm since this new version is also based on a cast of young singers recruited from the young and convincing school of French singing and that the mezzo Marina Viotti (replacing Marianne Crebassa) makes her debut in the title role. It is not surprising that with such a poster theater and music combine in a great success.
Laurent Pelly wisely chooses to transpose into our contemporary world the story of the tormented loves of la Périchole and Piquillo, of which he makes a couple of street singers. With an update of the spoken dialogues due to Agathe Mélinand, it reinforces its topicality and sharpens the farce in a hard-hitting reading which somewhat erases the parodic aspect of the great French opera but underlines its social and political criticism. A beautiful work of staging declined in three main scenes by the scenography of Chantal Thomas: the bar of the three cousins, earthy trailer where the tiny, engine of the intrigue, flows with floods; the elegant Salon du Vice-Roi (we admire the play on words!) last vestige of a bygone era, last memory of the great French opera with a grotesque ballet supporting social criticism, itself represented by the beautiful contrasting costumes of Laurent Pelly and the very successful games of mirror and light of Michel Le Borgne ; finally the prison, made up of a mesh cage which symbolizes the autocracy of the Viceroy by emphasizing the political aspect of the libretto widely proclaimed in III dans l’air: ” King, no higher than a boot… “. All this bathed in a libertine and jubilant gaiety, without vulgarity, smoothly led by actor-singers, each more irresistible than the other.
In the pit, the tone is set from the initial opening, nervous and full of drive, led by a very sharp Marc Minkowski and the reactive and accomplice Musicians of the Louvre. We immediately note the round sonority of the strings (solo violin) and the virtuosity of the woodwinds united in an invigorating symbiosis. The conductor’s committed direction gives a lot of relief and color to the phrasing, perfectly balanced, rich in rhythmic and dynamic nuances, which passes with ease from the most unbridled joy to the most moving tenderness, following as closely as possible the unfolding of the farce in which Marc Minkowski and his musicians do not hesitate to participate actively.
The vocal cast is homogeneous and of high quality theatrically and musically, claiming impeccable diction, irreproachable stage engagement, perfectly limpid prosody and flowery speech nicely paired with the mirliton verses of the libretto. Vocally, for his role, Marina Viotti in Périchole burns the boards with his banter, his sensual and modest looks, his round and full-bodied timbre, his well projected voice. In front of her Stanislas de Barbeyrac camp an endearing and somewhat silly Piquillo, with a powerful song sometimes somewhat choppy. Alexandre Duhamel, convincing from start to finish, lends the Viceroy his deep timbre and his libidinous attitudes of an accomplished erotomaniac, indescribable in the trio: ” I am the pretty jailer “. Supporting roles: Chloe Briot, Alix Le Saux and Eléonore Pancrazi as sparkling three cousins, just like the duo of obsequious courtiers (Rodolphe Briand and Lionel Lhote) or the intemperate notaries (Mitesh Khatri and Jean-Philippe Fourcade) without forgetting Natalie Perez as a cheeky courtesan and the excellent Chorus of the Opéra national de Bordeaux happily complete this cast which escapes all criticism.
In short, a superb production which, like the trifle of the three cousins, can be tasted without moderation!
Photo credit: © Vincent Pontet
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