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Duck

Documentary “L’Opera” by Jean-Stephane Bron in cinemas in France

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A new documentary about the Opera de Paris has been in cinemas throughout France since 5th April. I saw it in Nice on Sunday.

The documentary traces individuals, groups and events behind the scenes and on stage over at least one season. In doing so, it shows what I would summarise as the human side of work at an opera house – such as facial expressions of participants in discussions (e.g., expressing disagreement), worries and doubts of performers during the rehearsal process as well as the successful performance, challenging managerial aspects (dealing with a strike that has been announced for the opening night of a performance; the search to find a replacement for a lead singer for an opera at two days’ notice), the commitment and success on stage coupled with the exhaustion of a performer as soon as the artist is in the wings, etc.

While I guess some French will be helpful, I think that focussing on facial expressions and the atmosphere shown might work just as well.

Most of the documentary focusses on opera, with some content about POB and organisational aspects of the Opera de Paris (who sits where in the most prestigious box for the opening gala of the 2015 season; the approach to ticket prices in light of budget constraints and the need to be accessible). Specifically, in relation to opera

  • it follows a young Russian tenor (Mikhail Timoshenko) from his successful audition for the Opera’s Academy programme, his arrival in Paris, rehearsals and coaching, some doubts, and through to a successful performance, presumably towards the end of the season
  • a group of primary school children who come in for a monthly rehearsal in preparation for an end-of-the year concert performance in front of their proud relatives
  • various opera rehearsals, with e.g., the conductor looking to get the sound from the orchestra that he is looking for, looking to synchronise the chorus with the lead singers, preparations for a new opera through to the successful premiere
  • some funny aspects, too – the new opera that is being prepared involves a bull on stage. The documentary shows how the bull is chosen (pictures of a massive bull) …  followed by a sequence that shows the bull in his stable with a loudspeaker a couple of yards away, playing the music of said opera at full volume, so as to get the bull acquainted with what will be happening on stage (this made me wonder whether Peregrine gets to listen to music from La fille mal gardee even now and then, or did so before the very first performance?)

In relation to ballet (and to avoid a double posting in a separate part of the forum)

  • a short extract of the defile as part of the opening gala

  • a brief segment from La Bayadere (and showing the dancer completely exhausted once in the wings)

  • a rehearsal extract for Millepied’s Appassionata (interrupted by him replying to an email … with the music changing dramatically to something much darker, followed by Stephane Lissner on the phone to Millepied with what sounds like an intense discussion in relation to the latter’s potential departure and as if they had a number of prior discussions whether this may happen or not, an extract from the press conference that announced Aurelie Dupont replacing Benjamin Millepied, an extract from a related announcement (and yet with different words and a different tone) by Millepied himself to the dancers, followed by the successful premiere of Appassionata in early February 2016

In case some here are in France over the Easter break ... the following link provides a list of cinemas that show the documentary plus a trailer http://www.allocine.fr/film/fichefilm_gen_cfilm=253361.html

My only regret is that the staff of the Paris Opera House and the artists were not introduced by name when they first featured in the documentary e.g., with just the name and the title or role displayed on screen, as it is done in many other documentaries (the credits at the end of the documentary do provide a long list operas that featured in the documentary as well as the artists involved). I did recognise Stephane Lissner, Philippe Jordan, Benjamin Millepied and some of the dancers shown, plus I think Bryn Terfel and Toby Spence however there were many others whom I didn’t recognise. Not having the names did not prevent me from enjoying the documentary but it would have given a little more context. Though maybe that’s not an issue for those who watch opera more often than I do.

 

 

 

Edited by Duck
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Thanks Duck for that incredibly detailed description of what sounds like a fascinating documentary.  As I have no plans to be in France soon I will have to hope that it comes out on DVD or YouTube eventually!  ?

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Thanks so much, Sim. I am hoping for a DVD, too. :)

 

Edited by Duck
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