Influence, #meToo and self-determination: Nico Muhly’s Marnie at the Met
After Dark Sisters and Two Boys, composer Nico Muhly returns to opera by adapting Winston Graham’s 1961 novel Marnie. Premiered […]
At the time of its closing for renovation from July 2015 to February 2017, the Opéra comique had offered, in addition to a « hors les murs » season, an opera via the Internet. Le Mystère de l’écureuil bleu (The mystery of the blue squirrel) returns to the salle Favart as part of « My First Opera Festival », which runs until March 11, 2018.
« Où va la jeun’ Margot
Hyène des arias
Quand d’Adèle en sanglots
S’éteint l’unique voix ?
Sans crainte des secousses
Elle emboîte le pas
D’Adèl’ qui la repousse
Comme une paria »
(Duo des clochettes)
A tribute to opéra-comique
For this webopera, the Opéra Comique called upon Marc-Olivier Dupin, who already composed for the theatre Robert le cochon et les kidnappeurs.
Le Mystère de l’écureuil bleu is a work that works on several levels: for children it’s a police investigation and for adults it’s a gamee of clues through the history of the Opéra Comique. The composer and the librettist (Ivan Grinberg), have indeed scattered many references in the music and the lyrics.
The great French masterpieces created at the Opéra Comique, such as Lakmé, Louise, Carmen, Manon, la Dame blanche, les Contes d’Hoffmann, etc., can be found there in a moving tribute to this genre and to the theatre itself.
The plot is triggered when the diva Adele gets kicked out of the reopening gala, because she refuses to play with the tenor Leon (who, on the other hand, is madly in love with her). Capricious and spoiled, she makes her lover Saint-Germain, director of the Opéra comique, spend a lot of money, and causes him trouble with Pel&Mel, his sponsor.
Adele is thus very angry at the director, but also at the young singer Margot, who takes her place. The mood is also tense behind the scenes, where Zineb, the costume designer, does not appreciate the friendship between her lover Bernabé and Margot.
A mystery to unravel
One day Zampa, Margot’s little squirrel, is found dead over the piano in blue. What happened? Who killed the pet?
Is it Adele, willing to do anything to spoil the gala and, above all, the debut of her rival Margot?
Anna Reinhold, with her soft voice, is the perfect embodiment of this complex character, a seductive, haughty, cynical, cruel, but ultimately very sensitive woman.
Is Margot the murderer herself, in order to convict Adele and ensure her place?
Armelle Khourdoïan is a naïve and exuberant young chorister, dressed in a childish and eccentric way, walking around with her pet.
She knows how to amaze the public by unfolding her voice from bass to treble with great agility, but also how to be touching, sharing her love for singing: Moi chanter me suffit / Mes amours sont des voix / Des fantômes qui prennent vie / Le temps d’un air / Tocades passagères / Tu aimes un instant / Tu quittes le suivant / Sans larmes sans blessures.
One will notice the beautiful « duet of clochettes » where, within the framework of a vocal « battle », one can appreciate the velvety tone of Reinhold and the amplitude of Khourdoïan’s voice.
Is the perpetrator be Zineb, jealous of Margot? Besides, she isthe one who manufactures the blue color…
Marion Tassou embodies the « boss » of the Central costumes in a realistic and engaging way. We see her stressing out with her costumes, dressing up the singers, helping the director (Zineb, sois gentille, dans mon bureau, ramène-nous une bouteille de champagne), but also knowing how to be respected (J’ai du boulot, laisse-moi. / Va retrouver ta Miss piapiapia qui chante comme un oiseau !). We appreciate her assertive personality, as well as her voice, and her mastered legato.
Maybe Barnabas killed the squirrel, so he could comfort Margot?
Relaxed, funny, tireless, generous: Patrick Kabongo‘s fly system operator is irresistible as soon as he enters the stage. The audience explodes with laughter when he kneels down to apologize with Zineb (Engloutis-moi, Terre, j’ ai oubli son anniversaire!), and has fun during the jealousy duet with her.
What if the murderer was the unsuspected Leon, revolted because Adele refuses to sing alongside him?
The timid Leon of Jean-Jacques L’Anthoën surprises with his deep and powerful voice. The baritone embodies a clumsy young tenor who, dressed in a striped sweater, looks like the protagonist of Where’s Wally?
What if it was a plot by Saint-Germain to distract the sponsor from his financial problems?
Ronan Debois is an overwhelmed director, stuck between the demands of his lover, the sponsor and his collaborators, seemingly materialistic and calculating, but who is finally genuinely attached to the theater’s future. The baritone’s voice is rich in colour and his interpretation is realistic and charismatic.
Education and entertainment
Even if we were looking forward to a real police investigation, with the disclosure of the culprit at the last minute, the show is still a great achievement.
Marc-Olivier Dupin composed a funny and intelligent work, where quotes blend naturally with the original music, and the references to other genres add dynamism, thanks also to the commitment of the Frivolités Parisiennes orchestra, whose energy of percussions and brass is remarkable.
Ivan Grinberg has been able to imagine a libretto combining a modern language with that of the past centuries, where respect for tradition does not prevent self-derision (C’est la nouvelle chanteuse / De l’opéra co / Coco / Co / Mikmik). His characters are plausible and well defined. The staging, Alain Blanchot‘s costumes and Aurélie Maestre‘s sets, are completely consistent with the spirit of the play and suggest a multi-layered reading.
Watch the 2016 show on ArteConcert