The Opéra Grand Avignon presents a new production of Britten’s Peter Grimes, directed by its Director Frédéric Roels and served by a musical team of consistent quality. A great way to celebrate its return to its historic theater after years of work.
After several years of work that required moving its activities to an ephemeral venue, the Opéra Confluence, the Opéra Grand Avignon is returning to its historic theater, in the heart of the City of the Popes, a stone’s throw from the famous bridge where one dance, it seems, all in circles. The work has affected the building in depth: redevelopment of spaces (entrance, foyer), creation of a new room that can accommodate conferences or recitals, improvement of room comfort and acoustics, modernization of stage equipment, repair of roofs. The decorum also benefited from this period of closure, everything being refurbished, from the parquet floors to the installation of a magnificent chandelier in the dining room.
For the occasion, the new Director of the premises, Frédéric Roels, presents his first production to the public since his arrival at the head of the institution, with Peter Grimes by Britten. The work has a large gallery of characters, he takes care to present during the prologue and to characterize them in order to make them immediatelyable (a smock for the pharmacist, a collar for the rector, a cap for the captain, etc. .). The scenography remains fairly bare: two pontoons are moved sideways by technicians on sight, an upturned boat occupies the center of the stage, and large black tarpaulins covering the stage are regularly raised from the hangers to form a roof, the decoration of a church in the background, a hut, or to evoke the sails of a ship. Like the tide, these tarpaulins rise and fall, discover and cover, hide or transform space. Everything seems dark, damp and poor, like the village where the action is located, while offering rapid transitions between the visual worlds of the different paintings. Visually, therefore, these paintings offer a neat aesthetic.
The title role is played by Uwe Stickert who, despite a somewhat timid scenic investment, manages to paint the gruff, stubborn and boorish character of the character. His extremely clear voice is delivered with ease, including in powerful highs of the chest, or endings full bass. His sensitivity stands out, especially in his air Now the Big Dipper and the Pleiades or in his final monologue a cappella, suspended moments in which he lets emotion guide a vocal line on edge, sculpted by a delicate legato.
Ludivine Gombert plays Ellen Orford with touching restraint. Its velvety texture with fine, lively and round vibrato benefits from a generous projection. His relaxed song allows him to weave a phrasing of great delicacy with poetry. Robert Bork is a Captain Balstrode with a powerful voice, light vibrato and dynamic phrasing. The slight vocal instability perceptible in his first interventions fades when the voice heats up to show its solidity.
Cornelia Oncioiu is an Auntie with a thick and mellow voice in the midrange and bronze bass. The voices of her two nieces merge into a beautiful musical bond, Charlotte Bonnet with a round voice with a sweet timbre, Judith Fa with a finer voice with a tangy timbre. In Ms. Sedley, Svetlana Lifar relies on precise diction, dark bass and a full voice with amber reflections.
Pierre Derhet plays a Bob Boles with a frank and clear voice, whose vibrato widens when the voice amplifies. Geoffroy Buffière encamps Swallow, the mayor and judge of the village, with a powerful voice with a full-bodied tone and nicely covered. Its bass is flamboyant but its treble is sometimes hesitant. Rector Adams takes on Jonathan Boyd’s solid voice, with well-emitted highs and racy timbre. His chiseled diction brings a certain enthusiasm to his character. In Ned Keene, Laurent Deleuil displays a real scenic ease, a fine and dynamic phrasing. His fine voice sometimes struggles to cross the orchestra, which then forces him to force his show and destabilize his line. The rest of the time, its clear baritone timbre charms with its colored grain. In Hobson, Ugo Rabec exhibits a deep and charcoal voice based on a rich breath and a sharp phrasing. He also demonstrates a great flexibility in the handling of his wand when he leads the procession of the villagers from his drum to Act II.
Federico Santi, head of the Orchester National Avignon-Provence, manages to capture the essence of Britten’s score (whose sounds will be found in the Stravinsky of Rake progress several years later). The orchestral textures are characterized, the dissonances emphasized and the silences supported, so as to establish the dark, mysterious and disturbing atmosphere on a rich and fiery sound. The main Montpellier Opera Choir lends strong to that of the house, the whole kneading a homogeneous and powerful sound, firmly in place. In general, the complex sets are controlled, precise and fulfilled.
There is no need to count the points between the different protagonists, since equal rounds of applause punctuate the final ovation of the audience towards the choir, the soloists, the orchestra and the production team. Conversely, the points which punctuate the surtitles could be counted, the sentences ending there randomly with one, two, three, or even four points.