Sunday, 28 February 2016

One day it happens: a victim must be found (ROH/L'Étoile)

Emamanuel Chabrier, L'Étoile (Elder cond. Orchestra of the Royal Opera House)
Is it opera? Yes –for the most part. Is it panto? Certainly there are elements. Is it Wagnerian? Well largely not, but undoubtedly there are touches of Humperdinck. Is it Monty Python-esque? In Clément’s delightful production, absolutely. Is it G&S? with the plot and style, very much of that vein. Chabrier’s L'Étoile is all of these things, but first and foremost, it is an absolute scream. I haven’t seen an audience laugh so happily in some time.
Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile © ROH 2016. Photograph by Bill Cooper
It has a plot which seems to defy explanation, but is actually relatively straightforward when the thing is in front of you: King Ouf is out and about, incognito, in search of a victim to impale for his birthday. Of course had he a list like the executioner carries in The Mikado, it would have been the shortest evening of opera you could imagine. As it is, a victim must be found. The Astrologer Royal advises Ouf that his fate is linked to the victim and he will die the next day. So good news for Lazuli, as she must be kept safe in the palace. In short, she certainly wouldbe missed.
Tropes of pantomime are there too, not least two narrators with added dialogue, including jokes about the king downsizing to avoid the bedroom tax (to raucous laughter – despite this being the cheapest option in the booking window with a top price of £110, I wonder just how many in the audience were at risk of paying this) and Boris Johnson having two jobs. One of these was Chris Addison 'off the telly' (and spotted at the Serail in the summer at Glyndebourne)
The music is not of the first-order- it is really just background. The overture is the most fun bit and sets things up rather well.  Elder does a fine job in extracting a light, fluffy account of things. The musical equivalent of syllabub, this is light and frothy and delightful.
Mariame Clément manages to delight visually, with constant turns and charms. In contrast to her Polituo last year, this has so much colour and fun, and frantic movement. Surely there is no higher complement to pay than this: the only limitations which remain are those of the piece.
Overall: a wonderful production of a limited work, making for a really great night.

Run finished but broadcast live on R3, and therefore available on catch-up; many images here and here.

Emmanuel Chabrier
Libretto: Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo
Director: Mariame Clément
Designer: Julia Hansen
Lighting designer: Jon Clark
Choreography: Mathieu Guilhaumon
Conductor: Mark Elder
King Ouf I: Christophe Mortagne
Siroco: Simon Bailey
Prince Hérisson de Porc-Epic: François Piolino
Tapioca: Aimery Lefèvre
Lazuli: Kate Lindsey
Princesse Laoula: Hélène Guilmette
Aloès: Julie Boulianne
Patacha: Samuel Sakker
Zalzal: Samuel Dale Johnson
Smith: Chris Addison
Dupont: Jean-Luc Vincent
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

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