Opera Month – French Week

June 5 to 11, 2017


Enjoy plenty of opera throughout June on Stingray Brava. Opera month opens with a week of French opera productions. In addition to the French productions of Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten (June 8) and Czech composer Leoš Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen (June 5) and Katia Kabanova (June 8), four operas by French composers are lined up for your enjoyment.

French opera is one of Europe's most influential operatic traditions. Baroque composers such as Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau laid the foundation for French opera. On Friday, June 9 at 20:30 CEST, Stingray Brava presents Rameau’s baroque opera, Les Indes galantes. Roughly two hundred years later, Debussy produced his only opera: Pelléas et Mélisande (June 6 at 21:00 CEST), a wonderful example of 20th-century French impressionism.

Germany-born French composer Jacques Offenbach is one of the main figures in 19th century French opera. His humorous operettas and opera bouffes were hugely popular with Parisian audiences. In 1855, the composer founded the famous Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, where many of his works were staged. On the weekend of June 10 and 11, enjoy his magnificent farce La belle Hélène and his memorable magnum opus, Les contes d'Hoffmann.


Monday, June 5 at 21:00 CEST | Janácek - The cunning little vixen

Leoš Janácek’s The Cunning Little Vixen was described by its composer as “a comic opera with a sad ending”. The work allows us to observe the fleetingness of human life through the eyes of a vixen. It is a profoundly poetic tale for which the composer wrote some wonderful, life-enriching music that is magnificently orchestrated. “His music is quite simply overwhelmingly moving,” says André Engel, who, working with an outstanding cast, directed a new production of this fascinating work for the Paris Opéra. The opera is convincing truth that fairy tales are not just for children and that sometimes fables contain the most profound truths.

Conductor: Dennis Russel Davies
Performers: Orchestra and choir of the Opéra national de Paris, Hauts-de-Seine Choir
Soloists: Elena Tsallagova, Jukka Rasilainen, Michele Lagrange, Hannah Esther Minutillo, David Kueblre, Roland Bracht, Paul Gay
Composer: Leos Janacek
Producer: EuroArts Music International
Location: Opéra Bastille, Paris, France
Year: 2008

Tuesday, June 6 at 21:00 CEST | Debussy - Pelléas and Mélisande

Music of introverted tenderness and a libretto that hints at much and offers few answers – such is Pelléas et Mélisande, Claude Debussy’s only completed opera. Dubbed “drama lyrique” by the composer himself, and written in 1902 at a time when the subconscious, the psyche, dreams and urges commanded the attention of science and art, this music searches the souls of its characters with its subtle nuances. Pelléas and Golaud are half-brothers, each loving the girl-from-nowhere Mélisande. The elder, dominant Golaud makes her his wife; the younger Pelléas is the soul-mate of the taciturn, strangely vulnerable Mélisande, and an equally mysterious bond of concealed love is formed between them. This staging by Nikolaus Lehnhoff has a cast to match these wondrous sounds. According to ‘Die Welt’, this exceptional production “achieves […] what actually can only be understood as magic.”

Conductor: Philippe Jordan
Performers: Orchestra and choir of the Opéra national de Paris
Soloists: Stephane Degout, Elana Isallagova, Vincent le Lexier, Anne Sofie von Otter, Franz Josef Selig, Julie Mathevet, Jérome Varnier
Composer: Claude Debussy
Producer: Idéale Audience, NHK, UNITEL
Stage director: Robert Wilson
Video director: Philippe Béziat
Video provider: C Major
Location: Opéra Bastille, Paris, France
Year: 2012

Wednesday, June 7 at 14:00 CEST | Janácek – Katia Kabanova

This award-winning and original production of Leos Janacek’s opera Káťa Kabanová was filmed in the baroque decor of Les Bouffes du Nord in Paris. With a reduced piano version and incredibly talented young singers, this is an enchanting version, acclaimed both by the press and the public. Kát’a is married to Tichon, who is dominated by his tyrannical mother Kabanicha. Boris, who lives in with his uncle, the merchant Dikój, is hopelessly in love with Kát’a. Kát’a confesses to Varvara, one of Kabanicha’s foster daughters, that she finds her feelings for Boris hard to resist. Varvara, who harbours a secret crush for teacher Kudrjas, promised to help her. Kabanicha sends her son on a business trip and Kát’a vainly tries to persuade her husband not to leave, because she knows she will end up meeting with Boris. Varvara, who has a date with Kudrjas herself, tells Kát’a that Boris is waiting for her in the garden. Meanwhile, a grotesque love scene is taking place between the inebriated Dikój and the hypocrite Kabanicha. When Tichon comes home, Kát’a confesses that she spent the final 10 nights with Boris. Kabanicha wants to punish Kát’a severely, and Dikój sends his cousin to Siberia. The lovers say goodbye, after which Kát’a jumps into the river and drowns herself. Once Tichon sees Kát‘a’s lifeless body, he rises against his mother for the first time, accusing her of the death of his wife.

Performers: Kelly Hodson, Paul Gaugler, Martin Surot
Conductor: Irène Kudela
Producer: Idéale Audience
Video director: Louise Narboni
Location: Bouffes du Nord, Paris
Year: 2014

Thursday, June 8 at 21:00 CEST | Britten - Albert Herring

Albert Herring, Benjamin Britten's comic opera is gently laced with moments of farce and a jocular parody on life in East Suffolk at the turn of the 20th century. The libretto by Eric Crozier is based on Guy de Maupassant's story Le Rosier de Madame Husson and transposed entirely to an English setting. The opera was premiered in Glyndebourne on 20 June 1947, conducted by the composer. The text itself is genuinely funny and there are myriad musical quotations, but despite the light subject there are as well some complex forms. Like other works by Britten, this opera explores society's reaction to an odd individual – although in this case it is from a generally humorous and light-hearted perspective. Brunel chose to update the action to contemporary times, in a world with rows of little white houses, perfect mowed lawns and with Big Brother-like video surveillance.

Location: Théâtre national de l'Opéra-Comique, Paris
Year: 2009

Friday, June 9 at 21:00 CEST | Rameau - Les Indes galantes

Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Indes galantes (1735) is a typical example of an 18th-century ballet opera. In this genre, the focus lies on entertaining the audience, rather than conveying a proper plot. In four acts, the ballet opera tells of the romantic adventures of princes, princesses, and slaves from foreign cultures. In this contemporary version, a group of young people is encouraged to look for love in exotic places. What follows are four stories in which love triangles and intrigues take center stage.

Location: Grand Théâtre, Bordeaux, France
Year: 2014

Saturday, June 10 at 14:00 CEST | Offenbach - La belle Helène

Jacques Offenbach was well-known in his time,  but his popularity only increased with La belle Hélène. Performed worldwide following its December 17, 1864 premiere at the Théatre des Variétés, this parody of Greco-Latin antiquity (similar to Orphée aux enfers, 1855) satirizes the reign of Napoleon III. Who better than this Corsetti-Sorin duet could highlight and stage the play on words, flashes of wit and other anachronisms abound in the libretto? Having satirized a Rossini opera (La pietra del paragone), they pursue their theatre of illusion in the style of Méliès. Twelve years after Laurent Pelly's version, conducted by Marc Minkowski, La belle Hélène returns in a new production.

Conductor: Lorenzo Viotti
Performers: Orchestre Prométhée
Video Provider: Lukarn
Location: Théâtre du Châtelet, France
Year: 2015

Sunday, June 11 at 14:00 CEST | Offenbach - Les contes d'Hoffmann

Giancarlo Del Monaco's passionate and intelligent production of Jacques Offenbach's magnum opus creates a climactic kaleidoscope of deep and convincing emotions. A highly credible incarnation of the pitiable Kleinzach he sings about, Aquiles Machado is the poet who loses his romantic idealism, his reflection and finally his soul to a 'trio of charming enchantresses'. Conductor Alain Guingal inspires the superbly dramatic cast, including María Bayo, Milagros Poblador, Valentina Kutzarova and Katharine Goeldner, in an outstanding recording.

Conductor: Alain Guingal
Location: Ópera de Bilbao
Year: 2006