Olivier Py réinvente Carmen

Nietzsche’s favorite opera. An “indecent” version.

Olivier Py, ancien directeur du théâtre de l’Odéon, met ici en scène une Carmen contemporaine et parisienne à l’opéra de Lyon. L’audace a déconcerté lors de la première, mais rien d’inhabituel pour la bohémienne, censurée dès 1875 pour « indécence » lors de sa présentation par Bizet. On s’accorde sur la mise en scène flamboyante, pensée par le scénographe Pierre-André Weitz, qui s’appuie la volonté d’Olivier Py de simplifier le livret, en se débarrassant du parlé. Passer d’opéra comique à opéra, c’est se défaire d’un adjectif qui ne seyait que peu à Carmen.

Stream here.

Sursum! Bumbum! (Reading The Rest Is Noise)

My copy of The Rest Is Noise finally arrived yesterday (Thursday) and I dove into it like I have all the free time in the world – it opens with a description of a premier of Salome conducted by Richard Strauss himself in the Austrian city of Graz. 

Giacomo Puccini, the creator of La Boheme and Tosca, made a trip north to hear what ‘terribly cacophonous thing’ his German rival had concocted.  Gustav Mahler, the director of the Vienna Opera, attended with his wife, the beautiful and controversial Alma.  The bold young composer Arnold Schoenberg arrived from Vienna with his brother-in-law Alexander Zemlinsky and no fewer than six of his pupils.  One of them, Alban Berg, traveled with an older friend, who later recalled the ‘feverish impatience and boundless excitement’ that all felt as the evening approached… 

As dusk fell, Mahler and Strauss finally appeared at the opera house, having rushed back to town [from their walk in the hills] in their chauffeur-driven car.  The crowd milling around in the lobby had an air of nervious electricity.  The orchestra played a fanfare when Strauss walked up to the podium, and the audience applauded stormily.  Then silence descended, the clarinet played a softly slithering scale, and the curtain went up. (3, 6)

The rest of the opening chapter is a fascinating collection of musical analyses (written for a semi-amateur reader), anecdotes, and vivid descriptions of early scandalous performances often accompanied by fistfights – prompted by this reading and a post on Fido The Yak‘s blog about Hazrat Inayat Khan’s The Mysticism of Sound and Music, I, for one reason or another, ended my day at 2am reading Nietzsche’s The Case of Wagner.  In section 6 Nietzsche imagines a conversation between Wagner’s success incarnate as a “philantropic music scholar” and “young artists”: “Let us walk on clouds, let us harangue the infinite, let us surround ourselves with symbols! Sursum! Bumbum! – there is no better advice.”  It is interesting that Nietzsche’s discussion of Wagner’s “sweaty” music begins with his admission that the day before he heard Bizet’s Carmen for the twentieth time.  I think his description of Bizet is rather intriguing in terms of a possible comparison with Hazrat Inayat Khan’s quote about the music and its appeal to the formless: Continue reading