Best Tickets for Opera, Ballet & Concert
Best Tickets for Opera, Ballet & Concert
“Opera must make audiences weep, tremble and die” said Bellini to Pepoli as he set out to delve into a somber romanticism peopled with diaphanous heroines for the subject of his libretto. Depicting the love between a royalist and the daughter of a republican succumbing to madness, I Puritani is Bellini’s last opera: a perilous work for which Laurent Pelly offers us a production à la Piranesi, as precise and incisive as is this great monument of bel canto.
For his Madame Chrysanthème, Pierre Loti drew on memories of his own visit to Japan in 1885. When composing Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini was inspired by the popular melodies and sonorities of Japanese voices. However, in the literary work, as in the opera, the heroine remains the same: Kiku-san or Cio‑Cio‑san, a young geisha betrayed by her western husband, the symbol of the meeting of two different worlds. Robert Wilson’s ethereal production espouses to perfection the dramatic intensity and underlying violence of this thoroughly Japanese tragedy.
A masterpiece of the Enlightenment, Les Indes galantes is a sparkling entertainment. Yet Rameau’s first opera‑ballet also testifies to the ambiguous view held by Europeans concerning the Other – Turks, Incas, Persians, “Savages”… In 2017, film director Clément Cogitore made an explosive and critically acclaimed film adaptation of an extract from Les Indes galantes in collaboration with the Krump dancers. This time, with choreographer Bintou Dembélé, he takes up Rameau’s box of delights in its entirety to set it once more in an urban and political space whose frontiers he explores.
By virtue of its language, Don Carlo, the Italian adaptation of Don Carlos, a grand opera in the French style, is more passionate than the original version. However, from one version to the other none of the finesse is lost, be it in the score or the dramatic intrigue which, from the Escorial to Flanders, interweaves political, romantic and family conflicts. An historical fresco to which Krzysztof Warlikowski confers the depth of a huis clos in which the human psyche is laid bare, revealing the paralysis of men faced with the legacy of power.
Numerous composers have sought to come to grips with this monument of Shakespearian tragedy. Keen to perform the title role of King Lear, the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau turned to Aribert Reimann who initially declined the proposition. However, in 1975, when Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper approached him, he finally agreed to take up the challenge of this impossible opera. From the somber orchestral timbres and the highly nuanced vocal lines emerge all the tortuous dissimulations and violence of human relationships. No illusions remain, however, in Calixto Bieito’s cathartic production in which each of the characters is stripped bare: collective hysteria gives way to an old man’s solitude. Destroyed, like a new-born babe, he weeps to find “that we are come to this great stage of fools.”
Borodin’s only opera, this great Russian epic, best known for its Polovtsian Dances, questions the responsibilities of a leader with regard to his people. Having ceded power to his despotic brother‑in-law in order to go to war, Igor is taken prisoner with his son. From his refusal to negotiate with the enemy to his return home, the prince’s deeds invite us to reconsider our own moral values. By divesting the work of folklore of the most elementary kind, Barrie Kosky’s production highlights a universal need for ethics.
In creating this ebullient opera buffa, Rossini captured all the fiery spirit of the comedy by Beaumarchais that inspired it. A native of Venice, birthplace of the commedia dell’arte, Damiano Michieletto is highly sensitive to the burlesque vein in Rossini’s music. He transposes the action of this Useless Precaution to a modern-day Seville inspired by the cinema of Almodóvar. Bartolo’s monumental building, where Figaro’s free spirit whirls and twirls, allows this director to give free rein to his off‑beat imagination.
An evening devoted to two of the most illustrious French composers: Debussy and Ravel. Guided by her perpetual fascination for the relationship between pure movement and music, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker takes up Prélude à l’après‑midi d’un faune with the dancers of the Rosas Company. The performance continues with L’Enfant et les sortilèges, a tale written by Colette and finely orchestrated by Ravel. In Richard Jones and Antony McDonald’s production, the singers of the Academy suffuse this work with the freshness of youth.
Could there be a greater homage to the inventor of magic realism in literature than to make him the principal character of an opera in which all resemblance to reality is abolished in favor of an imaginary world with its own rules? In this work by Offenbach, Hoffmann, an ill-fated poet and composer, evokes his past love affairs and leads us through a universe in which dreams and reality intermingle. Director Robert Carsen plays masterfully with this play within a play and his spectacular mise en abyme takes us behind the scenes of opera.
Princess Yvonne has nothing of a princess about her: she is ugly, apathetic and taciturn. The constant butt of taunts, her presence disturbs and irritates to excess. Philippe Boesmans’s opera, commissioned by the Paris Opera in 2008, stands alone: both sordid and droll, of unexpected cruelty but also irresistibly seductive, it reveals all the darkness of the human soul. Brought to the stage in a disturbing production by Luc Bondy, both score and libretto conserve all the dark humor and cynicism of Witold Gombrowicz’s eponymous play.
When, in 1731, l’Abbé Prévost wrote L’Histoire du chevalier Des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut – the work that inspired Massenet’s Manon – he portrayed an entire era, that of the Regency, which saw the old order fade away and a new order, full of the promise of unprecedented freedom, rise from its ashes. Manon must make her way between these two worlds, fleeing the convent in order to embrace the paths of desire and transgression, throwing herself headlong into a burning and destructive passion with Des Grieux. A parenthesis opens, only to close again in suffering and obscurity. The director Vincent Huguet casts the work’s customary taffeta aside in order to bring out its violence to the full.
According to legend, Adrienne Lecouvreur’s untimely demise was caused by a bouquet of poisoned flowers sent by her rival. The woman who revolutionized tragic declamation and was so admired by Voltaire, died at the age of thirty‑eight. Consummate theatrical artistry, passionate love and a mysterious death… that was enough to prompt Eugène Scribe to take up her life story and write a drama later set to music by Francesco Cilea. A triumph! The composer produced an opera of great refinement which would never again leave the operatic stage, in the image of the tragic actress who continued to grace the boards until her dying breath.
In Boris Godunov, the Tsar of all Russia is consumed with guilt and sees the ghost of the child he has had assassinated in order to seize the throne rise up again in the form of an imposter. With this landmark in Russian opera, Mussorgsky offers a reflection on the solitary nature of power to the backdrop of the eternal sufferings of the Russian people. Director Ivo van Hove draws the spectator into a monumental set in which man is finally reduced to his humanity and must confront what constitutes the end of the work in its original version: silence.
A grief-stricken father before the lifeless body of his child. Such is the heart-rending image evoked by the final bars of Rigoletto. Taking this drama as a point of departure, Claus Guth has conceived a production in which the buffoon sees his life pass before his eyes, a humiliating farce softened only by the presence of his daughter. Shrouded in a scenography of poetic modernity, haunted by the indelible memory of Gilda, Rigoletto hears her reawaken to the deceptive promises of the Duke of Mantua’s love: “Caro nome…” An aria of great candour and one of the most beautiful that Verdi ever composed for sopranos.
When, in Scenes of Bohemian Life, the characters imagined by Henry Murger, reminisce over their time as young, penniless artists – the Café Momus, the parties and poor Mimi, cut down in the flower of youth – it is with all the nostalgia that passing time affords. What if we observed La Bohème from a similar distance? Such is the audacious undertaking of Claus Guth: by situating the shattered love affairs of Mimi and Rodolfo light years away, he has created a universe in which the past resurfaces in the form of hallucinatory flashbacks. Puccini’s music resonates sublimely in this surprising setting, and the director brings out the very essence of the work: memory as the tenuous link by which we hold on to life.
Shadowing each character of Così fan tutte, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker intimately marries song and dance. She excels in rendering visible the music’s underlying geometry, transforming the stage of the Palais Garnier into a laboratory for lovers. Starting out with the idea of immutable, eternal love, all four lovers let themselves slide, little by little, towards a more complex understanding of the sentiment of love as perpetual motion. Bodies seemingly inseparable come adrift, opening up the possibility of new combinations….
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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