Best Tickets for Opera, Ballet & Concert
Best Tickets for Opera, Ballet & Concert
Spurred on by his passion pour Mathilde Wesendonck, Richard Wagner wrote the work of a lifetime: a poem of love and hypnotic, sensual death. Philippe Jordan directs a cast of emeritus Wagnerians with staging by Peter Sellars, enhanced with videos by Bill Viola. Associating these two major artists has given life to a unique and whole artistic object.
Absent from the French lyrical stage since 1936, Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer, a monumental fresco written in the context of Saint Bartholomew, is the highlight of great French romantic opera. To honour this rediscovery, the Paris National opera is bringing together a prestigious group lead by Bryan Hymel and Ermonela Jaho, with staging by Andreas Kriegenbourg: a mix of tradition and modernity.
Created at the request of the Paris National Opera, Bérénice by Michael Jarrell continues the cycle dedicated to contemporary operas based on great works of French literature. Taking inspiration from the majestic sadness of Jean Racine’s alexandrines, the Swiss composer strives to magnify the power of the former’s words and their tragic resonance. Phillipe Jordan directs Barbara Hannigan and Bo Skhovus with staging by Claus Guth.
In Benoît Jacquot’s production, Manet’s Olympia dominates the stage of the Opéra Bastille. In 1863, the painting caused a scandal: the prostitute awaits her client, her expression proud, her demeanour assured. Is this Violetta? Like Olympia, Verdi’s most celebrated heroine surrenders to the spectator just as she surrenders to love, going so far as to die on stage, a woman’s ultimate sacrifice for her lover. Or might it be the spectator who strips her bare and intrudes upon her privacy, in the image of this milieu of social voyeurism? Whatever the case, these two women regard us with defiance and subjugate those who cannot help but look at them.
A village somewhere in the Italian countryside, a wayside inn on a road crossed by the occasional dog. Nothing more. Laurent Pelly’s production presents a deserted landscape in which the turbulent arrival of Doctor Dulcamara causes a sensation. And with good reason! He is said to be the inventor of a mysterious love potion… In opera, love philtres often provoke terrible tragedies. They also provide the pretext for this gentle comedy in which Sergeant Belcore and the timid Nemorino vie with each other for beautiful Adina’s heart. The stage is set! Bring on the music, which, if we are to believe Donizetti, was composed in a fortnight!
The ambiguities of Verdi’s theatre are particularly clear in his baritone roles, among which is that of Boccanegra, corsair turned doge of Genoa and the troubled observer of the conflicts that tore apart 14th century landowners and peasants. An eminently political opera in which power struggles are interwoven with family conflicts, Simon Boccanegra echoes the life of its composer – the man who championed the cause of Italian unification and overcame the loss of his wife and children. Calixto Bieito, that most Shakespearean of opera directors, brings humanism and truth to a work haunted by gleaming images of the sea.
The well-known tale by Charles Perrault, put to music by Sergueï Prokofiev, is transposed to a film set and Rudolf Noureev sends his Cinderella into the Hollywood spotlight. With a producer as a fairy godmother and a star actor as her Prince Charming, she manages to escape her miserable destiny and sees her dreams come true. A great show combining poetry and touches of humour celebrates the beginning of the Paris Opera anniversary year.
The murder of Abel by his brother Cain is one of those subjects that fascinated a century preoccupied by theological matters. That first murder was to engender all humanity and cast the ambiguous figure of Cain in the role of the father of civilisation. In the wake of Moses und Aron, stage director Romeo Castellucci returns to the Paris Opera with this oratorio, exploring its metaphysical dimension and the role of evil within the divine plan. Scarlatti’s music evokes the theme.
In 1854, Hector Berlioz confided in his memoirs that, “For three years, I have been tormented by the idea of a vast opera for which I would like to write both words and music.” Held back by the failures of Benvenuto Cellini and La Damnation de Faust, the composer was to wait another two years before throwing himself into Les Troyens, an enterprise based on Virgil’s Aeneid: an ancient text that, galvanised by the master’s brilliant orchestral modernity, breathed new life into an operatic world still dominated by Verdi. In 1990, when the curtain rose for the first time at the Opéra Bastille, it revealed the Trojan plains. Thirty years later, a new production directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov marks the anniversary of the opera house, revealing the work in all its immensity.
Poetry and sensuality take pride of place in this production of Rusalka, created for the Paris Opera in 2001. In taking up the well-known subject of the siren, Dvořák wrote a bewitching score that plunges the spectator into a mysterious and disturbing universe, magnificently represented in Robert Carsen’s production. Reality and the supernatural, earth and water, humans and ethereal beings are juxtaposed in this almost sublimely dreamlike opera. However, the meeting between two worlds is never without consequences: if the dreamworld nymph Rusalka sacrifices her voice, the only too human Prince loses his life.
“Storm still”, wrote Shakespeare. In Otello, rumbling thunder echoes the passions unleashed. A fervent admirer of the English playwright, Verdi composed a score abounding in fiery ardour: powerful music that penetrates to the heart of the most sombre reaches of the human soul, opposing Otello’s jealously, Iago’s perversity and the purity of the unhappy Desdemona. Under Andrei Șerban’s direction, gone are the stereotypes; instead, a production that shadows the tumults and shameful fears that drive humanity exposed here in all its fragility.
Don Pasquale, an old greybeard, decides to take a wife in order to overturn his nephew Ernesto’s plans. Ernesto, however, with the help of Doctor Malatesta, undertakes to ensnare Don Pasquale in the meshes of his own trap, entrusting the role of bride-to-be to Norina, his own betrothed. Docile, then intractable, Norina excels in playing at false appearances. The conflict between the two generations smoulders and stokes the comedy whilst producing an undercurrent of wistful yearning. With sincerity and dramatic profundity, Damiano Michieletto opens a pathway to the heart of an apparently light-hearted work, renowned as the apotheosis of opera buffa.
Of Shostakovich’s initial undertaking – a trilogy on the tragic destinies of Russian women through the ages – only one opera was ever written: the hard-hitting Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Although one of the mainsprings of the work, the Shakespearean parallel is here bitterly ironic: unlike Lady Macbeth, Katerina Ismaïlova who, in the remote reaches of rural 19th century Russia, falls in love with one of her husband’s employees and is finally forced to commit suicide, is less a manipulator than a victim of a violent and patriarchal society. Krzysztof Warlikowski liberates all the subversive power of this scorching and scandalous work, which marked the early years of the Opéra Bastille.
“Carmen will never surrender, born free, free will she die”cries Bizet’s heroine to Don José at the end of the opera. This irrepressible freedom, coupled with a need to live ever more intensely on a knife-edge, is present in Calixto Bieito’s production as in no other. Of Mérimée’s character, Bieito’s Carmen retains her thoroughly Iberian contours and the burning temperament of a woman who lives by small-time trafficking. However, the rebel bird is essentially a creature of our own times. A brazen and indomitable seductress and a product of social and masculine brutality, she lives life in the fast lane, avid for existence.
Mozart’s last opera can be seen as a marvellous tale for children or as an ardent meditation on human existence. A prince from a far-off land on a quest to find a slightly suicidal princess encounters a giant snake and a swaggering bird catcher, the Queen of the Night and a mysterious High Priest imposing strange rites of passage… Drawing inspiration from the words of the composer in a letter to his father, the director Robert Carsen provides an elegant and sober Magic Flute, a dark jewel that conquers Death and makes it “our best friend”, – a source of reassurance and consolation.
Historically presented as a diptych in 18921, Iolanta and The Nutcracker by Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky are once again reunited in this superb production by Dmitri Tcherniakov, which offers and unified vision of opera and ballet. As the last lyrical work by the Russian composer, Iolanta, delicate and intimate, is performed by a formidable cast lead by Valentina Nafornita. The Nutcracker, an essential repertoire ballet had been conferred to 3 talented choreographers: Arthur Pita, Edouard Lock and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who propose a resolutely modern and stimulating interpretation.
A Pasolinian landscape over which hovers the overwhelming image of a cross, symbol of the collusion between political and religious oppression: Pierre Audi’s reading divests the work of its ceremonial dress and strips bare its perfectly regulated tragic mechanism, the cogwheels of its drama which, from the raising of the curtain to the tragic downfall, operate with pitiless efficiency. With its transition from theatre to opera, Sardou’s play becomes the very symbol of operatic art. Is that because Tosca portrays a prima donna whosejealousy has weighty consequences for the destiny of her lover? The music overflows the drama to reveal the sensuality of its immortal heroine.
When the curtain rises, Don Alvaro is about to flee with Leonora. Alas, the two lovers are caught in the act by Leonora’s father. Alvaro throws his pistols to the ground but one of them goes off and kills the father. The force of destiny is pitiless and laughs at the fates of men. A grand fresco abounding in dramatic twists, La Forza del destino is also a work deeply rooted in its own time. In 1861, Verdi agreed to stand for parliament to pursue his political ideals. However, the Risorgimento was floundering and the composer fell prey to doubt. His dark melancholy suffuses “La Forza”. The opera becomes a place where dreams are shattered against the wall of reality but where a fragile song of hope of enrapturing beauty is to be heard.
The fruit of his second collaboration with Da Ponte, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, who conquers and overpowers women one by one with the cold-blooded bestiality of a predator trapping his prey, was to brand the history of opera with a hot iron. Power lies at the heart of Ivo van Hove’s theatre. For this lover of Shakespeare, the stage is the place where contradictory forces must co‑exist, at the risk of baffling the comfortable certitudes of his spectators and plunging them into a state of doubting insecurity. Here, the director tackles the myth of a seducer who has haunted European culture for centuries.
Beginning his opera with a prelude for strings of unprecedented economy of means, in 1853, Verdi affirmed his intention of defying conventions and norms. This is not the least radical aspect of his “Traviata”, which implacably strips bare the violence of a society that promotes worldly pleasures only to sacrifice an innocent woman on the altar of bourgeois morality. Simon Stone delights in grappling with the major works of the repertoire, enticing them into more intimate territory. One of today’s most distinguished stage directors, he now makes his long-awaited debut at the Paris Opera.
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