Burn with love, and be consumed with ambition at the Lille Opera

It is one of the most beautiful sets we have ever seen. A huge charred perspective, a baroque living room of vast proportions that survived a fire. Everything is covered in soot and ash, down to the bouquets of flowers still in their funerary vases, to the gutted and charred armchairs, to the dirty mirrors. The action of Mixes will take place entirely in this unique and dark place imagined by Natacha Le Guen de Kerneizon for the director Barrie Kosky. The virtuoso lights of Alessandro Carletti underline and sculpt the imposing volume, close or open it, isolate a point or increase its contours.

As usual, Barrie Kosky signs an extremely theatrical production (1) where the singer-actors are constantly in action – even in agitation. He also likes to insert cries, noises or laughter into the score, a process whose certain impact is dulled however in its systematic repetition. Isn’t it the cute sin of this inventive artist to sometimes drown the effectiveness of “a lot” in the temptation of “too much”?

The triumph of Elsa Benoît

In love with Jupiter as much as flattered by the interest shown in her by the god of gods, young Semele is driven by passion and ambition. The first kindles her sensuality but also her desire to share everything with her Olympian lover, the second makes her aspire to immortality. Pushed by the jealous Juno, the reckless mortal demands that Jupiter appear to her in his lightning finery and dies. This cruel argument is summarized during the opening of the opera: when the curtain rises, Sémélé reduced to ashes is reborn as a white soul and remembers the chain of events that led her to the abyss.

Soprano Elsa Benoît measures herself triumphantly in the title role of which she possesses the physical, dramatic and vocal assets. The fullness of the timbre, the agility and the scenic commitment are irreproachable. We only regret that the effervescent vision of Barrie Kosky like the energetic musical direction of Emmanuelle Haïm – at the head of her Concert d’Astrée as precise as it is brilliant – do not allow her to sufficiently dig into the poetic dimension of the character.

Charm and tenderness

For the work created by Handel in London in 1744 (three years after his famous Messiah) is as much a jewel of charm and tenderness as a restless and feverish variation on human finitude and the intoxication of overcoming. In particular, the composer puts graceful accents and melancholy melodies in the mouth of Jupiter, far from the image of the thundering or dominating sovereign. This amorous god has a presentiment of the fatal destiny of the one he adores and tries in vain to protect her from it… in spite of herself.

On the Lille plateau, the voice cast seems, alas, below the requirements of the score. Just like the choir whose sumptuous and contrasting pages sound uniformly invigorating, too stingy with nuances. The star Elsa Benoît then shines well isolated.

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