The works of the French baroque are a rather specialized taste. Some people love them, some not so much. There are also strong views on performance style. Some people favour an essentially modern treatment as in Robert Carsen’s Paris Garnier production of Rameau’s Les Boréades. Others are fans of the fantasy baroque approach taken by the likes of Opera Atelier. I’ve seen good examples of both approaches. What I haven’t seen before is a rigorous attempt to recreate a 17th century staging complete with period appropriate scenery and stage effects. In 2008 such an attempt was made at the Théâtre de l’Opéra Comique in Paris. The work involved was the first true opera in French; Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione. The results are very interesting.
Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise is an astonishing piece of music theatre and Pierre Audi’s Amsterdam staging of it is equally extraordinary. There is very little “plot”. The work consists of eight loosely linked tableaux taken from 16th century accounts of St. Francis’ life and ministry. There is theology and leprosy and ornithology and it goes on for four and a quarter hours. It ought not to work but it does. Continue reading