A Paris Opera 2017-18 Season to Enchant

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Susan Brodie - Toi Toi Toi

By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!

“Laissez-vous porter”–let yourself be carried away–is the motto of the Paris Opera’s 2017-18 season, and the upcoming program provides plenty of delights to get excited about. With 21 operas, half of them new productions, and 13 ballets, it’s hard to choose.

For opera lovers, the season’s hottest ticket will be Krzysztof Warlikowski’s new production of Don Carlos, in the original French version premiered at the Salle Peletier in 1867 (minus the ballet). Conducted by Philippe Jordan, it features a dream cast of Ildar Abdrazakov, Jonas Kaufmann, Ludovic Tézier, Sonya Yoncheva, and Elīna Garanča (11 performances October-November; cast change October 31).

For the theater maven there are new productions by some of Europe’s most psychologically penetrating directors. Lovers of baroque music will gravitate to Handel’s last opera, Jeptha, in a new Claus Guth production, with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants returning to the Palais Garnier after a 15-year absence. Claus Guth also offers a new La Bohème, conceptually based on Murger’s novel. Gustavo Dudamel makes his Paris Opera debut conducting the first half of the run (November-December). The French premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Only The Sound Remains, directed by Peter Sellars, promises an exquisite aural palette, with the superb countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and Saariaho’s ethereal electronic surround-sound effects perfectly suited to the intimate Palais Garnier (January-February). And Dutch director Ivo Van Hove debuts at the Paris Opera with Boris Godunov, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski (June-July).

Among new-to-Paris coproductions is Parsifal, directed by Richard Jones, with Günther Groissbeck, Peter Mattei, and Andreas Schager (April-May; 8 performances). From the House of the Dead, in Patrice Chereau’s widely-traveled Vienna Festwochen production, will include the singing cast and extras from the original production, and will be conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who studied and worked on the production with its original conductor, Pierre Boulez (November).

Revivals are largely cast with exciting singers and, when possible, the orginal stage director participates in the rehearsal period. Un Ballo in maschera will bring back Anja Harteros for her second Paris Opera run, with Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora in the summer revival of Il Trovatore) in the second cast. The current season’s Così fan tutte (directed and choreographed by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, September-October) and last season’s elegantly creepy double bill of Bluebeard’s Castle and La Voix humaine will bring back the same casts as at their production premieres. The Falstaff revival will star Bryn Terfel and the rising young French soprano Julie Fuchs (October-November).

Both casts for the Willy Decker La Clemenza di Tito revival are worthy, but American tenor Michael Spyres’s Paris Opera debut is a particularly welcome development. In the alternate cast, Stephanie d’Oustrac should be a compelling Sesto (November-December).

The revival of Laurent Pelly’s sparkling double bill (L’Heure espagnole and Gianni Schicchi) offers the chance to hear Clémentine Margaine, Elsa Dreisig, Stanislas de Barbeyrac, fine young French singers still little known outside of Europe (May-June).

And to return to the beginning, September launches 2017-18 with the revival of the sparkling production of The Merry Widow, with Veronique Gens in the title role, Thomas Hampson, Stephen Costello, a rare appearance by José Van Dam, and the finest cancan you’re likely to see outside the Folies Bergère. While far from profound, it’s charming, zesty, and great fun.

Just a few words about ballet. Aurélie Dupont, who took over directorship of the ballet a year ago, after the abrupt departure of Benjamin MIllepied, declared a desire to return the company’s emphasis on the classical repertoire. While there’s no “white” ballet during the season, Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée and Balanchine’s Jewels join more modern classics like John Cranko’s Onegin and Pina Bausch’s Orphée et Eurydice. With 13 different programs, including 5 new works, dance enthusiasts will have ample options.

There’s so much more, including some of my personal favorites, but this should whet your appetite. If I seem simply to be regurgitating the official announcement, I’m excited by this season, a material improvement in casting and artistic interest over typical fare in the previous regime, when patrons could be overheard complaining during intermissions about the timidity of the post-Mortier productions. General Director Stephane Lissner has made a point of hiring top theatrical directors and international stars, and integrating dance into many of the productions. Financial survival is always a challenge, but Lissner’s programming addresses a wide audience, with works both of contemporary relevance and of escapist beauty—or both simultaneously, in hopes of pleasing both ticket buyers and donors.

Subscriptions went on sale today at noon Paris time; you can subscribe with as few as four opera and/or ballet performances—doable during a week in Paris. All subscriptions are compose-your-own;a subscription will take a bit of time to calculate because of varying prices, but instructions are straightforward and available in English. Tariffs are on the high side for Europe, especially on all-star evenings, but there are interesting budget options for young people and for families, both of whom Lissner is eager to add to the audience. Go here to see what I left out!

Date posted: January 26, 2017

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