The Opéra de Rouen Normandie offers a lyrical exploration in the company of Marco Polo: “L’abrégé des Merveilles”, commissioned with the Normandy Impressionist Festival, by and for young people (in particular):
Rouen has been a major maritime port since Antiquity, having notably traded with the Italy of Marco Polo, but the artistic journey proposed here, in the company of this legendary explorer, embarks from the lyrical flagship that is the Opéra Rouen Normandie .
Frédéric Boyer’s libretto draws on the book dictated by Marco Polo, entitled The currency of the world we The Book of Wonders and invites us to travel with him across continents but also centuries and levels of consciousness. Indeed, the journey here is both literal and metaphorical: Marco Polo (1254-1324), crossing the oceans, discovers new continents and new peoples, but also sets out in search of his own origins. Following the true story of this legendary character, Marco Polo travels here in the company of his father (also a great explorer, with whom he actually left at the age of 17), in symbolic search for his mother (whom he actually lost ). The show presented here expands this incredible journey of Marco Polo across the continents, his own genealogy, but also the centuries (he discovers here not only Asia but also the capture of Constantinople, the construction of socialism, the millions of deaths of war, the theory of the atom).
The show (set up by Lodie Kardouss) at the disposal of a concert, with an orchestra on stage, in front of the choir, but the soloists made up and costumed (by Françoise Pétrovitch who also signs the scenography) sail across the stage. Above all, a large painted canvas of 210 m², dressed at the bottom of the stage, is revealed like a course winding (infinitely slowly on itself): like an illustrated map of the travels of Marco Polo. The journey is thus visual, gradually discovering the fauna, flora and constructions of distant peoples, through changing colors and with light and shadow animations: all resonating with the musical journey.
The score composed by Arthur Lavandier is of a rich complexity but knows how to break down into simple elements, easily grasped by each performer (while inviting the public to a choice, which also corresponds to the attitude towards the text: either to let oneself be lulled by the poetic universe, i.e. a great concentration to grasp everything). The great rises in volume and material of the music indicate that a new shore is in sight (making you want to shout “Earth! Earth!”, but Marco Polo then shouts “Mother! Mother!”, in the most powerful peak of the evening: continuing its quest for filiation), then the sound fabric teems, with hopping bows to represent the exploration of the continents, like the breath in the winds imitating that in the sails.
All the musical forces, professionals and amateurs, instrumental and vocal, follow the limpid and expressive direction of Maxime Pascal, flexible as the reed and firm as the oak.
Vincent Vantyghem embodies Marco Polo with a long red cape, recalling both his Venetian origins but also more precisely the figure of Dante Alighieri (Marco Polo guided by his father thus recalls Dante guided by Virgil). His singing sails on the cottony roundness of his timbre (a voice of silk and spices, like the text he interprets), soft and intense in the phrasing, knowing how to project himself onto accents and suffice towards a lyrical crescendo.
The other soloists-characters also each have a large cape, the same color as their respective makeup (around the eyes, on a white face). The Father in a green cape, with a false air of Sphinx, strings together philosophical maxims, with the honey timbre of Safir Behloul, caressing his sweetness through the whole range of shades, colors and pitches, including the clear treble. (even if the voice tires and tightens a little whitening).
Léa Trommenschlager, in a yellow cape, remains at a distance: she interprets La Voix by projecting her lyrical, intense, but corseted voice (with little amplitude and opulence).
Black and white cape finally for the narrator Pierre Baux, projecting his actor’s voice with power and the loquacious articulation of his intentions (making the words travel and follow Marco Polo’s journey, as singing and music do) .
Marco Polo’s Abrégé des Merveilles is thus rediscovered and explored in this show by the soloists who embody the characters, by the house orchestra like a sound ship, but above all by the children (from the Masters of the Rouen Regional Conservatory prepared by Pascal Hellot) who constitute a proud and dynamic crew. Installed at the back of the stage in a color chart of outfits (purple, orange, red), they deploy their no less colorful song, in impressive ranges (even with body movements, swaying like the foams on the bridge). Their voices always remain posed and marked, launching the melodies and counter-melodies with a dynamism supporting this polyphony. They thus dialogue with the richness of the timbres of the orchestra (on stage), in a symphonic formation but very rich in percussion.
Marco Polo eventually reunites with his mother, hearing her voice, “one night in the Gobi Desert”. She is embodied in a halo of light by Julie Mathevet, singing to her, in short striated phrases, to love the world with her angelic soprano voice, very vibrant and caressing. What a sweet way to end this highly acclaimed trip.