Kulturkompasset | critics of culture events

Revealed operatic beauty in Leipzig

Revealed operatic beauty in Leipzig

Cinq Mars by Charles Gounod

first performed after 140 years at Leipzig Opera

Fabienne Conrad (Princess Anne) and Mathias Vidal (Marquis de Cinq-Mars)

Fabienne Conrad (Princess Anne) and Mathias Vidal (Marquis de Cinq-Mars)

Review by Christoph Münch, Fotos Tom Schulze.

LEIPZIG/GERMANY: “My Leipzig I praise myself! It is a small Paris, and makes its people “. That’s how Goethe let call a drinking buddy in his “Faust” drama, which partly is located in the Saxon city.

Leipzig Opera seems to be a good follower of the often cited comparison, especially in the recent production, and maybe this time it exceeded Paris bringing a really Grand Opéra on stage. “Cinq-Mars” by Charles Gounod, premiered in 1878 in the Opéra Comique de Paris, slumbered for 140 years in the archives. Strange enough, because it’s subject is as popular as dramatic. With the scientific and editorial help by Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de musique romantique française, “Cinq-Mars” has been made ready for its revival, which started with a CD recording with the soloists Mathias Vidal, Veronique Gens, Andrew Foster-Williams and Norma Nahoun, the Bavarian Radio Choir and Orchestra, directed by Ulf Schirmer.

The producer Anthony Pilavachi – who once found a piano reduction of the opera on a flee market and then contacted Schirmer when he heard about this recording, illustrated this lavish opera and allowed the public to immerse in the time and politics as well as in the sentiments and dramas of the 17th century. After being fed up with so many in vain attempts to translate operas in our times, or complete different settings with which the formerly modern Regietheater tries to celebrate its own intellectual superiority to the public, this production leads back to what theatre is or at least was supposed to be at its origins: the balanced triangle of education, entertainment and emotion.

The historical model of the dramatic story happened some years later than the famous three Musketeers but still in the permanent antagonism of the powerful and Insidious Cardinal Richelieu with the weak king Louis XIII. Instead of the musketeers, we see a deep men’s friendship of the Marquis Cinq Mars and the Conseiller de Thou and maybe as a counterpart also a tender and playful approach with erotic crackling between the king’s mistresses Marion and Ninon. Thus, Gounod’s work in this Leipzig production offers all delights of a real Grand Opéra, dramatic choir scenes, action, love, intrigues, glamourous sceneries, especially during the ballet, hope, delusion and dramatic deaths at the end.

Oper Leipzig, "Der Rebell des Königs", Nanae Kontora (MarionDelorme, on the throne), Jeffrey Krueger (De Monmort, below her) and the Leipzig Ballet. Foto Tom Schulze.

Oper Leipzig, “Der Rebell des Königs”, Nanae Kontora (MarionDelorme, on the throne), Jeffrey Krueger (De Monmort, below her) and the Leipzig Ballet. Foto Tom Schulze.

The cast fulfilled and even exceeded all expectations. Mathias Vidal, a dramatic unspoiled tenor who already was the protagonist in the CD production, convinced in the heroic role. Jonathan Michie, a blond young man surprised with his deep and warm basso in the role of Cinq-Mars friend, the Conseiller de Thou. Maybe the most multifaceted singer was Fabienne Conrad as Princess Marie de Gonzaque. With soft timbre she expressed her hidden love to Cinq-Mars, with harsh voice she tried to resist her feelings to follow the political need – just for a moment before she gave all her passion in her open love to the hero, and ending in most dramatic despair when she recognized that she and her lovers have been betrayed and her love was sent to the hangman. The long applause she got was more than merited.

The evil counterpart, Père Joseph, representative of Richelieu, was sung and played convincingly by Mark Schnaible. Gounod gave him even the chance to express the reasons why he behaved in that way. The Mistresses of the King who firstly stood for the decadence of the epoch further on joint as well the rebellion. Sandra Maxheimer gave an enjoyable Ninon. Danae Kontora at the beginning seemed to be just a pleasant light soubrette but then astonished with extreme fluent coloraturas. Every note met, no matter how high it was.

The same high level coud be kept in the minor roles such as Jakobsh Randall as King Louis XIII, the powerful and youthful Sébastien Soules as Vicomte de Fontrailles, Jeffrey Krueger as De Montmort and Polish Ambassador, Joshua Morris as Chancellor, Artur Mateusz Garbas as De Brienne and Jean-Baptiste Mouret as Eustache. The Leipzig Opera Choir integrated homogenously in the differentiated sound of the famous Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. David Reiland recalled from the musicians the nuances Gounod elaborated in the score to characterize the protagonists, their feelings and their time, from the burlesque ballet to the most lyric love scene to the anthem like reassurance of the rebellion in favor of France.

Leaving the Opera house, and crossing the wide Augustusplatz  the melodies and the long applause lingered in the mind, And even if this part of Leipzig nowadays doesn’t remind Paris at all and the nearby Völkerschlachtdenkmal is a memorial of the defeat of Napoleon’s imperial power, French history and culture found its best expression in this evening.

Cinq-Mars (Der Rebell des Königs) will be performed again on 11 June 2017, and in 2018 on 20 January, 11 February and 11 March.

Cinq-Mars Audio

Leipzig Opera House, foto: Henning Høholt

Leipzig Opera House, foto: Henning Høholt

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