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 Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini and
Auber's Le Domino Noir


Opéra National de Paris, March 17 - April 14, 2018

Opéra Comique, Paris, March 26 - April 5, 2018

 Le Domino Noir photographs by Vincent Pontet courtesy of the Opéra Comique


Alan Jackson recently visited Paris and has sent the following report on the two operas he saw there: Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini, the Terry Gilliam production seen at the English National Opera in 2014, and Auber's Le Domino Noir,  a coproduction with Opéra Royal de Wallonie and Opéra de Lausanne. The former was at the Opéra National de Paris and the latter at the Opéra Comique.


The ENO production of Benvenuto Cellini arrived in Paris this spring. As I fear this production of Cellini, directed by Terry Gilliam, is far too expensive for ENO to revive in London, and discovering that it was also possible to see Auber’s Le Domino Noir the following evening at the Opéra Comique, a short break to the French capital was too good to pass up.  


And the Berlioz was marvellous, with John Osborn superb in the title role, Pretty Yende very good as Teresa, Michèle Losier convincing in the trouser role of Ascanio and all the basses and baritones excellent too, notably Maurizio Muraro as Balducci, Audun Iversen as Fieramosca and Marco Spotti as Pope Clément VII. The opera was conducted splendidly by the Opéra’s music director Philippe Jordan, the very considerable rhythmic difficulties of the score overcome with seeming ease by soloists, chorus and orchestra. The production is a bit OTT of course but it works and doesn't get in the way of the music. My only reservations are with Act III of the piece, which does go on a bit - and if I had been Cellini and had just received a visit from the Pope saying “the statue by tonight, or it’s the gallows for you”, I wouldn't have spent time on a divine aria about the delights of the pastoral life, conspicuously not getting on with job! But Osborn sang it, and indeed the whole role, wonderfully, with burnished, even tone right up to top C. The other reservation is the Bastille itself. I had treated myself to a good seat not that far back in the stalls (not cheap!) but the sound was still distant, even if not quite as poor as when I been before in cheaper seats much further away. Berlioz lovers: note that Les Troyens is scheduled for January and February next season at the Bastille, conducted by Jordan with Hymel, Garanča and d’Oustrac.


©Agathe Poupeney / OnP  


Le Domino Noir at the Comique was a total delight. Firstly, though I was up in the Amphitheatre (second row) the sound was right there in front of me from the very first orchestral chords. I didn't know any of the singers but from the cast list I’d guess they were all native French speakers. Certainly they were all very good. Anne-Catherine Gillet as Angèle didn't ornament à la Sumi Jo on the Bonynge recording, but sang all her florid music very acceptably. Everyone else was fine, though Cyrille Dubois as Horace had apologised for a throat illness at the start and by the end you could hear him suffering. The production was funny and touching. It told the story (girl gets boy in preference to the convent) with no imposed overlay, and the sets and costumes were beautiful, imaginative and witty. Visual jokes were stylish and funny, never over-done. You could hear the dialogue clearly though my French isn't up to understanding it and the French surtitles only served the musical numbers. As with Hérold’s Le Pré aux clercs two years ago, I was conscious of the perfect match between work and theatre. The work itself is a treat, wonderfully tuneful, and lots of Spanish dance rhythms delicately orchestrated. Dare one hope that the Opéra Comique will continue its exploration and revival of Auber’s operas?


The Team  (Le Domino Noir)

Angèle de Olivarès - Anne-Catherine Gillet

Horace de Massarena - Cyrille Dubois

Brigitte de San Lucar - Antoinette Dennefeld

Comte Juliano - François Rougier

Jacinthe - Marie Lenormand

Gil Perez -Laurent Kubla

Ursule - Sylvia Bergé


Direction musicale - Patrick Davin

Mise en scène - Valérie Lesort, Christian Hecq

Chorégraphie - Glyslein Lefever

Décors - Laurent Peduzzi

Réalisation marionnettes - Valérie Lesort et Carole Allemand

Costumes - Vanessa Sannino

Lumières - Christian Pinaud


©Vincent Pontet

Brigitte, Angèle and Horace






©Vincent Pontet

Brigitte, Angèle and Horace






©Vincent Pontet

Brigitte and Juliano






©Vincent Pontet

Brigitte, Angèle and Horace





©Vincent Pontet

Jacinthe and Gil Perez






©Vincent Pontet

Angèle and Gil Perez






©Vincent Pontet

Chorus of Nuns



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