Giacomo Meyerbeer: LE PROPHETE in Berlin
Giacomo Meyerbeer: LE PROPHETE
Grand opéra in five acts.
Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps
In French with German and English subtitles
By Tomas Bagackas
BERLIN/GERMANY: With his LE PROPHETE (1849) Giacomo Meyerbeer rendered, in operatic form, one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the Reformation. The story of the rise and fall of the radical sect of Protestant Anabaptists, who controlled the city of Münster in a short-lived reign of terror in 1535, continues to fascinate audiences with its portrayal of religious and pre-Communist thought, a terrorist regime and the vision of a “kingdom of God on Earth”.
Performed for the first time just a year after the failed revolution of 1848, which saw the proletariat emerging as a self-determining class for the first time, LE PROPHETE has always been regarded as a commentary on contemporary political events and has lost none of its relevance in the 21st century.
Meyerbeer‘s grand opéra features one of the real-life protagonists, the Anabaptist leader Jean de Leyde, who became the charismatic head of the movement in the course of resisting the despotic Catholic authorities. Yet within the opulent framework of this historical drama, LE PROPHETE is also a psychological study, unique among operatic works, of a mother-son relationship, the real adversary of Jean the prophet being his mother, Fidès. This forthright woman spares no effort to re-establish her own control over her apostate son. It is a conflict that pervades the entire work right up to the final catastrophe, when Jean brings death to himself and hundreds of others in a huge explosion.
Deutsche Oper Berlin’s Meyerbeer cycle
LE PROPHETE is the crowning work in the Deutsche Oper Berlin’s Meyerbeer cycle, a project which has seen new productions of VASCO DA GAMA and LES HUGUENOTS and a concertante version of DINORAH. In his staging of LE PROPHETE, Olivier Py, the most renowned French director of opera working today, continues to address the key works of grand opéra, a project that has been excellently received thus far. His staging of LES HUGUENOTS in 2012 was voted “Production of the Year” by readers of “Opernwelt” magazine, and he has lately been creating a stir with his version of Halévy’s LA JUIVE at the Opéra de Lyon.
With Enrique Mazzola, Music Director of the Orchestre National d’Ile de France, at the conductor’s stand – as with DINORAH and VASCO DA GAMA previously – LE PROPHETE features debuts by two supreme singers: Clémentine Margaine as Fidès and Gregory Kunde as Jean.
French mezzo Clémentine Margaine – who was based at the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 2011 to 2014, first as stipendiary, later as a member of the ensemble – has since been gracing the world’s premier opera stages, tackling the key mezzo roles of the opera genre and appearing at such illustrious venues as the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Semperoper Dresden, the Opéra National de Paris, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Washington National Opera and the Opera Australia.
The American tenor Gregory Kunde, long considered a Rossini expert, has enjoyed a spectacular resurgence late in his career. Recent highlights include his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as Manrico (IL TROVATORE), his appearance as Verdi’s OTELLO in Seville and Cincinnati, and title roles in IDOMENEO and SAMSON AND DELILAH in Valencia. He has also guested as Rossini’s Otello and as Enée (LES TROYENS) at the Scala Milan, as Radames (AIDA) at the Arena di Verona and as Pollione (NORMA) at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, and La Fenice di Venezia. At La Fenice in 2013/14 he also sang Vasco da Gama in Giacomo Meyerbeer’s L’AFRICAINE.
The role of Berthe, Jean’s lover, is taken by Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova, a member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin ensemble since 2013. In 2007 she gave her debut as Zelmira in Haydn’s ARMIDA at the Salzburg Festival. She also debuted as Nannetta (FALSTAFF) at Glyndebourne and as Mélisande (PELLEAS ET MELISANDE) at the Paris Bastille, two roles that she has often reprised, to great acclaim, in the major opera houses of the world. In 2011 she sang Corinna (IL VIAGGIO A REIMS) for the first time at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro and is set to return to the role in the current season at the Deutsche Oper Berlin.