The influence of the myth that Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was written for a girls’ school seems to have had a long lasting influence on performance practice resulting in presentations that are very short and uncomplicated. In reexamining the work for the Opéra de Rouen Haute-Normandie, Vincent Dumestre of Le Poème Harmonique and stage directors Cécile Roussat and Julien Lubek come to different conclusions and, accordingly, present the work quite differently. They argue that the work was written for the court of Charles II though quite possibly never performed there owing to the death of the king and the turmoil that followed. They further argue that existing score fragments show numerous places where dance movements should be inserted and that this indicates something akin to Lully’s tragédies lyriques, especially as Lully was much in vogue in London at the time.
Rameau’s Castor et Pollux is a tragédie lyrique in five acts. It’s a mythology based libretto which, ultimately, celebrates the fraternal love of the twins who rise to immortality while rather callously discarding the female human love interest. Pierre Audi’s 2008 production for De Nederlandse Opera nods both to the baroque and to the mythological by staging the work in a rather abstract Sci-Fi sort of way but with moving sets and Fx that suggest, rather than reproduce, the stagecraft of the baroque.
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 →