OPERA IN AIX (*)
the 2015 edition of this annual Festival d'Art Lyrique was exceptional, with four beautiful productions and one ugly, off-putting one that I walked out of.
|Abduction from the Seraglio|
For Mozart's ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, Austrian director Martin Kusej had the bad idea to transplant this lovely Singspiel to a jihadist camp in the Sahara desert where Konstanze and her servants Blonde and Pedrillo are being held hostage by Pasha Selim in a Bedouin tent guarded by a dozen machine-gun-toting terrorists. Chief guard Osmin threatens to behead them with a scimitar.
|Alcina at work|
Alcina, magic at its best. A triumph.
IOLANTA by Tchaikovsky and PERSEPHONE by Stravinsky. These two one-act operas were performed together, beautifully staged by Peter Sellars with sets that served both pieces. An achingly romantic and moving Iolanta that brought the audience to its feet was followed by the poem Persephone, written by André Gide and set to music by Stravinsky.
Persephone was read by French actress Dominique Blanc and "danced" by a small troupe of Cambodian dancers. Magnificent.
For a video interview with Dominique Blanc and Peter Sellars in Aix, click here:
SVADBA is an a capella work for six female voices written by Serbian-born Ana Sokolovic who lives in Montreal where she teaches composition. Svadba, which means Marriage, is the story of a group of girlfriends getting together to say goodbye to one of them who is getting married. Sung in Serbo-Croatian (subtitled). A wonderful surprise.
The Aix city government has its own problems and had to close the Public Finance building when the air conditioning system broke down. No tax or fine collection until the problem is fixed.
Trains have suffered significant delays due to buckled rails, and several French cities have endured their highest temperatures ever recorded, including Paris where the thermometer reached 39.7 Celsius (103.46 Fahrenheit). The most popular places on a hot day are the shallow wading pools that are a recent feature in cities like Nice, Bordeaux and elsewhere. Very effective for a cooldown and a lot more fun than air conditioning.
|Avignon 2015 poster|
Our open-air operas start at 9:30PM when it may still be warm but no longer hot (except for the singers in costume), but the theatre festival in Avignon is taking a hit during this heat wave. More than 1300 plays are shown there during the month of July, most of them in the category Off throughout the day. Many of the temporary daytime theatres have no air conditioning and it pains me to see the actors and actresses who roam the streets, in costume and sweaty stage make-up, trying to lure the crowd to their hot little theatres. Some of our non-opera friends have come back with tales of overheating and it looks like this year, for the first time, I will not be going to Avignon for daytime theatre.
Makes me perspire just to think about it. I think I'm going to join those ladies in the fountain.
(*) To read more about Opera in Aix in my book TAKING ROOT IN PROVENCE click here: