Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Le Roi d'Ys|
Actors: Giuseppina Piunti, Ghylaine Girard, Eric Martin-Bonnet, Sébastien Gučze, Werner Van Mechelen
Directors: Patrick Davin, Jean-Louis Pichon
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Lalo : Le roi d'Ys
T. C. | 04/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lalo composed the opera during the years 1875 - 1878 but in the original version he was not able to stage it. In 1886 he made significant changes in the score, and it was finally premiered at the Opéra-Comique in 1888 to great success. The opera was presented there 100 times and then moved to the Paris opera. Until 1940 it was performed close to 500 times! It was successful in other places too. At the Met it was performed in 1922 with a cast that included soprano Rosa Ponselle and tenor Beniamino Gigli.
The opera is based on an old Breton legend and deals in the king and his two daughters (Margared and Rozenn) of the drowned city of Ys. Lalo's choice of subject exemplifies Wagner's influence on him. He made use with elements of Breton folklore that give the entire score a special flavor. Additional links to Wagner is the use of leitmotifs to identify the main figures but Lalo is using these motives mildly and the opera has a noticed French character.
There are quite a few similarities with Wagner's Lohengrin. Rozenn and Mylio wedding scene reminds the conclusion of the second act of Lohengrin, when the "good" couple and their guests enter the church with an organ sound while the "bad" couple - Margared and Karnac - remains outside making intrigues. Like Ortrud in Lohengrin, Margared redeems herself in the end of the opera by means of self-sacrifice.
The production in the new Dynamic DVD is from Liège : The 2008 performance at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie. Stage director is Jean-Louis Pichon. It is a traditional production with impressive realistic decor of a city built between huge rocks that emphasize the ancient side of the myth in addition of other elements of the middle ages. The costumes of colorfulness are periodical.
The conductor is Patrick Davin. The orchestra plays extremely well for him and one should mention the cello players that play beautifully the haunting cello theme in the overture.
The two sisters that are competing on Mylio (the tenor...) love: The "good" sister Rozenn is sung by Canadian soprano Guylaine Girard. She has a beautiful light and lyric voice and impressive high notes. The "bad" sister Margared is sung by Italian soprano Giuseppina Piunti. She is an outstanding dramatic soprano with a very impressive and dark voice.
As Mylio, sings the young French tenor Sébastien Guèze. He has a beautiful lyric voice that he uses efficiently. His high notes are impressive when sung powerfully but also when he is using them softly. Belgian baritone Werner Van Mechelen sings his opponent, prince Karnak. This is not in particular a pretty voice but it is suitable to this somber and wily figure. The singers in the secondary roles are all OK and everyone in this production sings with excellent French pronunciation.
To sum up: A successful production for a rare opera, which is for my taste beautiful and interesting. This new DVD can be safely recommended for those who are interested in 19th centaury romantic French opera (Gounod, Thomas, Saint-Seans, Bizet etc.)
A Tale of Two Sister
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 05/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have loved this score since first hearing excerpts from it years ago, and always wondered why, once popular, it's fallen into such neglect. Watching it I can see how it's somewhat simplistic (and despite the requirement of staging a spectacle in the form of a man-made disaster, static) story could keep modern audiences away. Nonetheless, Lalo's score is one of incredible beauty, some wonderful orchestral effects and some powerful choral music and ensembles. One could (and generally does) get much worse.
The story is simple: Margared and Rozenn, the King's two daughters, each love the young officer, Mylio. Margared is, however, betrothed to the King's former enemy, Karnac, yet refuses to marry him, inciting another war. If Lelio is victorious, the King promises him Rozenn's hand, an act which prompts Margared to dark magic and a vow of vengeance. Karnac loses the battle, but Margared shares her sinister plan to drown everyone by loosening the locks on the canal and flooding the city. They proceed, but as the panicked populace flees the flood, Margared confesses her transgression, and sacrifices herself, hurling herself into the flood waters, saving all.
I know little of the opera house of Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Lieges, but it is a beautiful, traditional house - and they have one hell of an orchestra. Indeed, the young maestro Patrick Davin, leads an entirely thrilling performance from the pit, beginning with a Wagnerian-length (and seemingly Wagnerian inspired) overture running to around 12 minutes. The playing from what seems to be a band of mostly youngish players, has a fullness and depth of sound that the Dynamic engineers capture brilliantly, particularly the long theme for the cellos and the rhythmically tricky work for brass that reoccurs throughout the score.
The production by Jean-Louis Pichon is gloriously old-fashioned - in an old-timey, Victor Book of Opera sort of way. A basic unit set comprised of massive, jagged stones embanking both sides of the stage, locations defined by changes in the rear wall, creating rooms within and a plaza before the palace, the town square, the outskirts of the city, and the levees of the flooded city, all aided by an excellent lighting design. In a work known today primarily for its coupe-d'theatre of creating a flood onstage, one has high expectations for what technology can do. To his credit Pichon keeps it simple, dry ice creating the effect of water pouring over the city steps, and what appears to be "real" rain, falling from the sky before the villainess' redemptive hurling of herself into the waters to save the city.
There are problems the Opera Royal de Wallonie production: singing is inconsistent, the chorus variable (literally ranging from excellent to groan inducing), the action sometimes even more stilted and static than the libretto calls for, missed opportunities. For instance, this is an opera where passions range (and rage) at the extremes, almost screaming out for an over-the-top treatment, a level which the Wallonie scarcely rise to. And yet, somehow absolutely NONE of that matters: it all works together somehow to create a magical effect that, by the final curtain, had the audience keeping the artists returning for numerous calls.
Young Canadian soprano, Guylaine Girard.has a nice turn as Rozenn (the good sister), improving scene-by-scene, the voice opening up expansively revealing a lyric of some good size. Giuseppina Piunti is her "evil sister." Piunti shows a flair for the melodramatic (though misses a few moments she could have made "wild") and, outside of a tendency to spread a bit on top notes, possesses a fun, dark sound falling somewhere between a lighter dramatic soprano and a mezzo, which makes her nearly ideal for a Falcon role such as Margared. The singers are each, in their own way, uniquely beautiful, but the similarity of their nearly identical (and over-embellished) costumes for most of the opera was not one of the designer's better ideas. (This "everyone dressed identically takes a bit away from the otherwise overall impressive visuals.)
Young French tenor Sébastien Guèze has a beautiful tone, most impressive in his upper register, but his pitch seemed to be all over the place - several times making it difficult to tell what notes he was "supposed" to be singing. Still, the timbre is pleasing, he moves well and is boyishly handsome (right down to his ruddy cheeks - which make him look all of about 15).
The evil knigh/prince, Karnak (he and his men in blinding/blazing, cardinal red uniforms) is swaggeringly sung by Belgian baritone Werner Van Mechelen. This is not an elegant voice and van Mechelen seems to be not a particularly good actor, but he made this part come across nicely. Eric Martin-Bonnet, (looking very much like Wallace Shawn) also more or less blasts his way through the role without offering much in the way of refinement, or beauty of tone, yet true to the spirit of the piece.
To recap: there are a number of problems one might (and likely will) find problems with, but in the end, this is a production well worth experiencing, and - warts and all - makes as strong a case for Lalo's opera as we can hope for.