Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ô petite étoile du destin... Simon Rattle, Magdalena Kozena

L'étoile, Staatsoper Unter den Linden im Schiller Theater, Berlin, December 19 2011

Conductor ..... Simon Rattle
Director ..... Dale Duesing

King Ouf I ..... Jean-Paul Fouchécourt
Lazuli ..... Magdalena Kožená
Princess Laoula ..... Juanita Lascarro
Siroco ..... Giovanni Furlanetto
Prince Herisson de Porc-Epic ..... Douglas Nasrawi
Aloès ..... Stella Doufexis
Tapioca ..... Florian Hoffmann

Staatskapelle Berlin

Opéra-bouffe in three acts by Emmanuel Chabrier is very 19th century bourgeois piece, that --despite its underlying lightness-- L'étoile is not an easy score to pull out properly. It is pretty, stylish, fun to play on piano -- full of little twists and turns that keep you alert. With an orchestra it can be delicious too if the conductor succeeds to weave through the score and translate the mood and lightness of the story -- despite a few details that are potentially outrageous for the 21st century public [read a well & succinctly written synopsis here.]

I saw the same show when it was premiered and I remember thinking it was too sweet, and that the director didn't care or dare to alternate those few details, to scratch beneath the surface, and make the drama fitting better the audience today.  Now, after second watching, I stand by what I've said before -- it is sweet and lazy entertainment. This option is more adequate now --with the Christmassy atmosphere in the city-- than it was at the first time I saw it.

I know that another production of this opera has been premiered a month ago in Frankfurt [see trailer here]. I am sure David Alden made a show much less `straightforward'...  Anyways, if you adhere to the Dale Duesing's way of staging this opera, you will definitely like the dynamics of the stage action, that certainly marries well with music.

Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kozena

Since I'm in Berlin and I saw this opera was on the program, and since the similar quality of a French opera rarely comes to Paris, I thought I'd go to listen to the Staatskapelle once again, conducted by always amazing Simon Rattle. To my surprise --and maybe because the current Staatsoper auditorium is smaller than the one in their real house-- all the singers sounded very-very good too. Magdalena Kozena was particularly brilliant. She definitely broke the formula of how to sing this kind of the French repertoire. Her spoken French was almost perfect during the show, but it was her singing with properly shortened legato and all the notes nicely held, that impressed me a lot. To me this was the best I've heard from Mme Rattle so far. Her uncommon musicality and a gift to sing known arias in her own way served her well in the baroque repertoire, but here --in Chabrier-- she scores it big too. Brava! I am not sure if I would remain as praiseful if the show took place in a larger auditorium, but why bother thinking about that now?! She was great here. ;)

Juanita Lascarro apparently sang the same role in Frankfurt too [Là-et-là] and becomes totally familiar with Princess Laoula [Là-ou-là] Very convincing performance by her, as well as by my new fave Stella Doufexis.
Men were all invariably excellent. It was hard to believe that the only native francophone in the cast was Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, who apparently is the Roi Ouf these days either in Europe or in the US. Knowing that the French is always hard to pronounce properly and that there are many spoken dialogs in this piece, this was more than impressive performance by all the singers/actors.

Simon Rattle quite obviously was having fun with steadily brilliant Staatskapelle Berlin. To make it extra fun, between the Act 1 and 2 of L'étoile, they filled in by a musical intermezzo which was a Chabrier-esque improvisation of an excerpt from the Act 2 of Tristan und Isolde. I was laughing to tears: the orchestra known to be the world best performers of Tristan, see a fragment of it through the  Chabrier glasses. That was the highest point of the evening for me.

So, all in all, this was an example how a lesser known opera of a decent musical content can be made musically attractive and appeal to the public of our time. If only the staging was less rigid, this would have been a memorable show.

Several production photos ©Monika Ritterhaus:

My pics:

Irrecognizable Florian Hoffmann, Stella Doufexis, and Douglas Nasrawi

Jean-Paul Fauchécourt, Magdalena Kozená, Juanita Lascarro, and Douglas Nasrawi

Giovanni Furlanetto

Simon Rattle and Magdalena Lazuli Kozena

and the official trailer


  1. Is Giovanni Furlanetto any relation of Ferruccio Furlanetto, do you know?

  2. Hi Imogen

    I asked the same thing and was told they are NOT directly related, but --as it's usual with Italians-- they are always related in some way (cousin of a cousin...) ;)