He is the first cousin of Alessandro Scarlatti


Reviews / Opera & Classics
per Quentin Laurens

In two unequal parts

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I have cousin Omicidio of Scarlatti by René Jacobs and his Akademie für alte Musik recorded twenty years ago was a landmark. The oratorio of six voices arrives at the Palais Garnier under its direction in a new production. In command of the staging Romeo Castellucci, tries to transform the oratorio in opera, without, however, ending in neither. His singular reading of the work of Scarlatti, manages to surprise without convincing.

The History of Art is full of references to the Old Testament and its first figures: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel are represented, bearing the origins of Evil, the roots of human suffering, the ferments of guilt. The brilliant libretto by Antonio Ottoboni, rich in conciseness, was soberly played by Scarlatti in 1707.

A frequent example of the etheric interpretations of the biblical stories (see notably WT of 10/28/15, Moses und Aron, by Caroline Alexander), Romeo Castellucci also signs the scenarios, costumes and lights of production. The costumes are sober and even austere, in the fashion of the 1960s: gray trousers with buttons, white blouse for roles of Abel and Cain, long khaki dress for Eva, dark suits and wide for others.

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In the first part, the neon lights color a long nebulous veil that divides the scene into two parts. Basically, some moving shapes struggle in a gaseous atmosphere. Castellucci entrusts to the symbols the care of hanging in the biblical narrative, without fearing blasphemy, change or anachronism. A fourteenth-century altarpiece descends on the stage, then hangs upside down like a menace. Abel hangs a large pocket full of blood, an allegory of animal sacrifice plastic. Later, two smokestacks act like inflamed blades. The voice of God rests on Cain and suffocates it.

In this first part, wanting to heal the performance, it turns into discomfort for the singers and boredom for those who watch them. The artificial and fixed postures imposed on the artists ended up tiring and disappointing. Here Cain wields a tight fist, there Abel hides his face with one hand, and Eve possesses a fictional apple handle … Some will defend a purposefully refined staging that adheres to the spirit of gender and theme … Sit above all else the temptation of Castellucci to transpose this oratory to a real opera, without however going to the end of his idea. At intervals, as in the middle of the ford, we regret that he did not choose.

A first part is quite insipid both on stage and in the pit, where René Jacobs, though accustomed to work, is stuck at a heavy pace, a direction without great breath or going away. Perhaps a way to emphasize musically the dramatic force of a part of the oratory where, in a tragic gradation, the fraternity becomes jealousy, resentment and hatred.

This first homicide grows a refreshing and intelligent second part, visually at least. Each of the singers is accompanied on stage by his double son.

The six children, true twins spoiled to perfection, returned to the hole. Dressed, combed and grilled as doubles, they take their role seriously and, thanks to the booklet learned in perfection, imitate the singing of adults in real time.

Like every time we trust the kids to invest in the scene, the whole is captivating. But here the message or morality mentioned in fine is ambiguous. What does Castellucci want to express? Remember the destiny of humanity: perpetual doom and eternal penance? We repeat that we are still sleeping the innocent and unconscious child we have been?

René Jacobs has it for this Primal Omicidio doubled the numbers of the orchestra to, as he explained, "as at the time, adapt to the room." Despite a somewhat dull part, the B & B Rock Orchestra offers a rich, intense and balanced range of sounds. The strings bring a lot of musicality, liveliness and body, leaving room for flutes, lutes and organs. The elegance and softness of the trombones are particularly appreciated, especially in the accompaniment of the Voice of God.

Without major mistakes, the vocal platform lacks brilliance and variety. The roles are usually well taken care of, but the music has no color and life.

Cain is embodied by the very theatrical mezzo Kristina Hammarström, who faithfully transcribes the psychological tension of the role. The Swedish singer, who offers very discreet bass, seems embarrassed by this viola role and performs well, but without relief.

Olivia Vermeulen makes a compelling, sweet and almost sincere Abel, a clear and well-designed voice. Sitting low and middle, Brigitte Christensen sounds a warm tone, despite some high taut. In contention in the early stages, Thomas Walker is gaining strength and showing a good projection. The British tenor makes a brave Adam and philosopher. The voice of God is incorporated by the counterman Benno Schachtner, sometimes with graceful tones. Robert Gleadow is known in the Voice of Lucifer that he sings with passion, backed by a powerful and somber line of music.

It is fortunate to hear this Primo Omicidio at the Paris Opera. Is it to be expected that, to the satisfaction of musical rediscovery, at all costs, the pleasure of visual creation?

He cousin Omicidio by Alessandro Scarlatti. Orchestra B & # 39; Rock, direction René Jacobs

Direction, scenarios, costumes, lights, Romeo Castellucci; Silvia Costa, Artistic Collaboration; Piersandra Di Matteo, Christian Longchamp, Drama

Featuring: Kristina Hammarström, Cain; Olivia Vermeulen, Abel; Birgitte Christensen, Eve; Thomas Walker, Adam; Voice of God, Benno Schachtner; Voice of Lucifer, Robert Gleadow.

Children's actors: Masters of the Hauts-de-Seine, Choir of children of the National Opera of Paris

Opéra Garnier, January 24, 29 and 31, 2019, at 7:30 p.m.; February 3 and 17 at 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 12 p.m., 14 a.m., 2.23 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.

Photos: Bernd Uhlig


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