Along with the celestial Mozart Requiem, a doomed Tosca and a gloriously witty Mahagonny the Aix Festival’s new artistic director Pierre Audi regaled us with three chamber operas — the premiere of a brilliant Les Mille Endormis, the technically playful Blank Out (on a turgid subject), and a heavy-duty Jakob Lenz.
Make no mistake, this is about you! Jim laid-out dead on the stage floor, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen brought his very loud orchestra (London’s Philharmonia) to an abrupt halt. Black out. The maestro then turned his spotlighted face to confront us and he held his stare. There was no mistake, the music was about us.
From the sublime — the Mozart Requiem — to the ridiculous, namely stage director Christophe HonorÈ’s Tosca. A ridiculous waste of operatic resources.
Pierre Audi, now the directeur gÈnÈral of the Festival d’Aix as well as the artistic director of New York City’s Park Avenue Armory opens a new era for this distinguished opera festival in the south of France with a new work by the Festival’s signature composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Bathed in Mediterranean light, basking in enlightenment Aix found two famous classical works, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in its famous festival’s open air ThÈ‚tre de l’ArchevÍche. But were we enlightened?
An incredible feat! The Aix Festival opened five operas, all new productions, on five consecutive evenings. The fifth was Francesco Cavalli’s 1655 drama per musica, Erismena! The compulsive intellectualism of Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (1643) long since thrown in the canals, Cavalli dissolves Venetian opera into purest, mindless hedonism.
There were four simultaneous Carmen — those of Prosper Merimee, Georges Bizet, Dimitri Tcherniakov and Pablo Heras-Casado.
The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.
Said and done the audience roared its enjoyment of the performance, reserving even greater enthusiasm to greet stage director Christophe HonorÈ with applauding boos and whistles that bespoke enormous pleasure, complicity and befuddlement.