Theatre des Champs-Elysees.
To celebrate the 250th anniversary of Rameau's death, Theatre des Champs-Elysees presented a new production of Castor et Pollux. Reworked by the composer in 1754, the second version contains fewer recitatives and is perhaps more diverting with additional dances and ariettes, but it remains a tragedie lyrique of great seriousness and expressivity.
Twin brothers Castor and Pollux (the latter immortal, the former not) are both in love with the Princess Telaire, though she loves only Castor. They have fought a war against an enemy king, Lyncee, which results in the death of Castor. During his funeral rites, Telaire expresses her grief to her sister, Phoebe, in the famous aria, "Tristes apprets." When Pollux then confesses his love for Telaire, she avoids giving a reply, instead asking him to go to plead with Jupiter to restore Castor to life in exchange for his own immortality.
Director Christian Schiaretti and set designer Rudy Sabounghi not only took inspiration from the architecture and neo-classical features of the century-old Theatre des Champs-Elysees to evoke antiquity, they also made an exact copy of the great hall on the stage. More than just a sensational coup de theatre, this building in a building provided an authentic setting for the action on stage while paying homage to the landmark monument the audience sat in. There were few other additions to the decor, other than a huge black curtain to separate earth and hell.
Expert now in this repertoire, Michele Losier had a magnificent dramatic presence as Phoebe, her diction clear and the vocal line extremely pure. Physically striking, the young Nigerian soprano Omo Bello created an interesting contrast as Telaire. Her rich dark timbre is full of promise, although she still lacks experience in this particular repertoire. As Castor, John Tessier used his naturally light voice to advantage, with a fine sense of style and a sensitive delivery of the text, while the wonderful tone and passion of Edwin Crossley-Mercer made for a gripping Pollux. In the smaller roles, the young Belgian tenor, Reinoud van Mechelen, was extraordinary in his three appearances as Spartan, Athlete and Mercury.
Herve Niquet conducted Le Concert Spirituel with rigor, though sometimes lacked subtlety and breadth in the slow passages. He gave constant attention to the action on stage and unfailing support to the singers. The excellent Choir de Concert Spirituel, so prominent in this work, were strong throughout. The weak link in this otherwise successful production was the Andois Foniadakis choreography, which looked like an insipid remake of Notre Dame de Paris.--Denise Wendel-Poray