This post will be too short...it deserves to be long, but I'm tired. I just returned from a wonderful, but fast, trip to Paris. On Sunday I saw the "Cunning Little Vixen". This is a favorite opera of mine and one that deserves to be done more often (you in Baltimore will get to see it soon at Peabody directed by my friend and mentor Roger Brunyate). Unfortunately I had mixed feelings about this production directed by André Engel at Bastille). The singing was quite lovely, but Bastille was accoustically the wrong house. I would have liked to have heard it at Garnier. The voices were not small, but got lost. For me the scenography needed something more intimate as well. I would have liked to have seen it at Garnier too. It was a beautiful production, very nice to look at and quite charming (perfect for children and that, perhaps, validates it by itself). But, for me, this is an adult work, and I felt Engel, who is a tremendous theater director (everyone should see his "Le Roi Lear"), didn't quite get opera.
Monday was a wonderful day of taking a long walk with counter-tenor Brian Cummings in the gardens of Versailles. He has an "El Nino" approaching in St. Louis that you should all see if able. I also had a lovely coffee with Jan Vandenhouwe. Jan is a friend and the assistant to Gerard Mortier (as well as a wonderful dramaturg). He will not be going with Mortier to City Opera, but instead will be taking over as programming director for the Concertgebouwe Brugge. Jan is going to be a big name some day, quite on the cutting edge of the field.
The real reason to go to Paris, and the highlight, was last evening's final dress rehearsal of Peter Sellars and Bill Viola's "Tristan und Isolde". It was stunning, truly transformational. Unfortunately it is too much to comprehend in an evening. Peter's work was a clear departure from his previous work, but it was tremendously beautiful. Bill's video was captivating. I trust this men, both geniuses in their own way, but I wish I could see it several more times to really dig into it. This is true of any production of "Tristan", such is the power of Wagner's score, but with all these geniuses dancing and fighting and struggling and reconciling in one evening, it was too much to understand. Still, it was the sort of experiences which define why we are alive.
The highlight, however, was German mezzo-soprano Waltrud Meier. For me she IS Isolde. No one else is like her in this role. Physically she defines the character and the voice is as effortless as a small breath and as powerful as a wave. She was amazing. I hear that this may be her last Isolde. Let us hope it is not so, but if it is, I consider myself fortunate beyond words.
I think I will write more about "Tristan", the production, and why this work is a piece that captures the essence of what we are. But now, for a little sleep.