Tangled plot, sensuous score: Cavalli’s Erismena illuminates the Jeu de Paume

Cavalli: Erismena ***

Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, Aix-en-Provence

You know you’re attending Baroque opera when the names of most of the characters (a) begin with a vowel and (b) are near anagrams of each other. With Erimante, Erismena, Orimeno and Aldimira all on the bill, making headway through the synopsis of Cavalli’s 1655 opera Erismena was like wading through treacle. Giving up at the third attempt, I happily settled back in the 500-seat Théâtre du Jeu de Paume and allowed Jean Bellorini’s spartan staging to lead me gently by the hand through the plot’s myriad twists and turns.

rancesca Aspromonte (Erismena)
© Pascal Victor

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A rake’s progress: Mozart’s Don Giovanni let loose in Aix

Mozart: Don Giovanni *****

Théâtre de l’Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence

Less than 24 hours after Stravinsky’s Rake bounded his way across the stage of the Théâtre de l’Archevêché, it was the turn of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (whose complete title is The Rake Punished, or Don Giovanni) to face his comeuppance. Jean-François Sivadier’s pulsating new production propels The Don through his lusty adventures at a whirlwind pace, pursued by those he has wronged, seeking vengeance. Behind a bare stage, the word “Liberta” is scrawled in red on a distressed wall, but can Don Giovanni’s victims ever be free of him? Sivadier suggests not.

David Leigh (The Commendatore) and Philippe Sly (Don Giovanni)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

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McBurney paints The Rake’s Progress onto a blank canvas in Aix

Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress ****

Théâtre de l’Archevêché, Aix-en-Provence

A blank sheet of paper can intimidate or inspire. The fresh page can stifle a writer, trapped in the glare of expectation, or can encourage daring originality, be it words in a notebook or notes on a stave. Simon McBurney’s production of The Rake’s Progress for Festival d’Aix-en-Provence begins with the equivalent of a blank page – a simple white paper box onto which he pours his inspiration, ideas tumbling onto – and through – the stage of the open-air Théâtre de l’Archevêché to create something that both dazzled and touched the heart.

Julia Bullock (Anne) and Paul Appleby (Tom)
© Pascal Victor | Artcompress

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Carmen as therapy: Tcherniakov challenges clichés but is stumped in Aix

Bizet: Carmen **

Grand Théâtre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, 4th July 2017

Love may well be a rebellious bird, but that’s as nothing to maverick director Dmitri Tcherniakov. In his beloved Russian repertoire he displays genius – his recent Snow Maiden in Paris fully deserving your vote in our current Best Production poll – but core classics often find him in rebellious mood. In his programme note, Tcherniakov describes being unable to connect with the truth behind the story of Carmen, with all its “unpleasant clichés” of bullfighters, smugglers and tobacco factories, so his twisted staging for Festival d’Aix reimagines Bizet’s opera as a radical therapy session for a disturbed young man.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Carmen) and Michael Fabiano (Don José)
© Patrick Berger | artcompress

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Boesmans’ dark Pinocchio opens Festival d’Aix-en-Provence

Boesmans: Pinocchio ***

Grand Théâtre de Provence, Aix-en-Provence, 3rd July 2017

If I wrote that I loved Philippe Boesmans’ Pinocchio, my nose may grow a little. Commissioned to open the 2017 Festival d’Aix en Provence, Boesmans’ opera finds the 81-year-old composer in collaboration with Joël Pommerat, whose libretto is based on his existing 2008 stage play. Between the two of them, they shift the tale far away from any cutesy Disney fantasy, returning it to the harsh reality of Carlo Collodi’s original fable.

Marie-Eve Munger (Fairy) and Chloé Briot (Pinocchio)
© Patrick Berger

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