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The Swamp of the Grand Théâtre

Grand Théâtre
01/28/2001 -  and 29, 31 janvier, 1, 3,4 february 2001
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Platée
Mireille Delunsch (Thalie et la Folie), Martine Mahé (Junon), Cassandre Berthon (L'Amour et Clarine), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (28, 31, jan.; 3 fév.) et Gilles Ragon (29 jan 1, 2 fév.) (Platée), Yann Beuron (Thespis et Mercure), Vincent le Texier (28, 31 jan.; 3 fév.) et Christophe Fel (29 jan. et 1, 4 fév.) (as Jupiter), Jean-Philippe Courtis (Cythéron et un Satyre), Franck Leguérinel (Momus), Emilien Palenzuela (la Grenouille de Thespis), Mark Minkowski (Conductor), Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, Guillaume Tournaire (Choir Master), Choeur baroque du Grand Théâtre, Laurent Pelly (Production and Costumes).

After Paris, where it was first performed with great success, the Platée of the Minkowski-Pelly duo is now in Geneva (for our article on the Paris production see: Paris 04/28/1999). This co-production of not least than six opera houses has been received with great enthusiasm by the Geneva public. It is inventive and entertaining, and of course funny. Funny as it was intended by Rameau himself 250 years ago. There is something of the spirit of Molière brought to the lyric stage. This is surprising, when one thinks that tragedies were the rule in French operatic tradition of the 16th and 18th centuries. Rameau had certainly been an avant-garde composer not only through the music (bizarre and disharmonic sounds to convey the noise of the swamp) but also through his methods of provoking laughter through chant (stammering, alliterations…). And even if baroque music had its rules -and Rameau did follow them- these sound affects certainly did brake some of the codes of baroque music. But baroque architecture was certainly freer and gave the opportunity for artists to break the walls of convention and leave free sway to their imagination. This is certainly what this production tempts to do.

A quite simple story: Platée, the ugly nymph of the swamps, is sure of her charm and Jupiter decides to seduce her to make fun of her. And a quite amazing decorum: we are invited, as a mirror affect, to face red carpeted theatre benches where the choir, dressed as the audience, performs, an amusing ballet. Then green moss and the fumes of the swamp slowly invades this theatre… we inter the world of Platée. A "Muppet Show" like production of green goggle eyed creatures and frogs appear from all over the place.

The choreography of Laura Scozzi is full with contemporary movements. Here baroque remains only as an understatement. The "street-dancing" dog of an elegant woman, or the dance of the ushers conveying some American musical. Unconventionalness and the style is, in fact, the lack of style, just a mixture. The tenor, Fouchécourt, performs Platée with a fine voice and remarkable acting, as well as La Folie, Mireille Delunsch, with her dazzling and humorous air where she directs the conductor on her own pedestal. Yann Beuron as Mercury, and Vincent le Texier Jupiter are also great performers. Nothing is really serious in this world of Platée. Angry, after all the mockery she had to endure, she eventually drops back in her swaps with a big splash. Of course, les Musiciens…are a dream. No difficulty can stop Minkowski in his mission to bring us into this dreamworld of sounds, so new and yet so old. A rediscovery!

Zoltan Bécsi



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