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Lille Opera  -   May 2021
G. Puccini


Musical direction          ALEXANDRE BLOCH

Staging             OLIVIER FREDJ  

Lights                 NATHALIE PERRIER

Floria Tosca              Joyce El-Khoury
Mario cavaradossi          Jonathan tetelman 
Baron Scarpia             Gevorg Hakobyan 
Cesare Angelotti           Patrick Bolleire
The Sacristan              Frédéric Goncalves 
Spoletta                 Luca Lombardo
Sciarrona                Matthieu Lecroart
A jailer                Laurent Herbaut


Lille National Orchestra

Choir of the Lille Opera

Young Choirs of Hauts-de-F rance 

Tosca is a monument of the lyrical repertoire. How do you approach this work?

Tosca is both a complete and reassuring work for a director because it has an exceptional musical and emotional force. But it is also a work with a thousand references and legendary productions, and we must strive to reveal more to the viewer, novice or experienced, what touches us the most. Offer a reading that still reveals its novelty today. 

While it is true that Puccini's librettists have greatly reduced the historical anchoring of Victorien Sardou's play, opera retains two essential ideas for me: conviction and choice. Puccini, like Verdi, tries to communicate them to the Italian people of his time, and it is that I would modestly like to bring out of this work.

Recall that the action takes place in June 1800, in a Rome where Queen Marie-Caroline of Austria reigns terror and subdues opponents of the monarchical regime. And when Puccini composed his opera at the end of the 1890s, the reign of Umberto I was marked by the authoritarianism of the government, which violently repressed the demonstrations of the working poor. Like almost all of Europe, Italy was then shaken by anarchist movements. When it was created in January 1900, Tosca's political dimension - almost unprecedented in the history of opera - provoked the indignation of part of the public and even raised fears of an attack in the theater. Why ? Without a doubt because Mario believes in a code of human and political values which leads him without thinking to give his life rather than betray. Because Tosca herself, however taken by doubt and jealousy, will end like Angelotti by choosing her death rather than allowing herself to be killed. Because everyone, faced with Scarpia who believes only in strength and terror, must choose: obey, serve or oppose.  


So you chose to take us back to the Rome of 1800?

The action is going well in Rome and during the Battle of Marengo in 1800, it is explicit in the libretto and therefore does not need to be pressed. 

Tosca points to the springs of fear and the hegemony of morality, especially religious, to impose dictatorship and legitimize violence. It also raises the question of individual responsibility for what happens to us. It is because the people accept Scarpia that he can act with impunity. How to make an act of resistance, in particular in the face of authoritarianism? Does art - here through a painter and a singer - have a role to play in this struggle? These questions are not from 1800, or even from 1900. The staging is therefore deliberately neutral in terms of historical or geographical references.


How did you adapt to the constraints linked to the exceptional situation in which this production occurs?

While destabilizing us, the health crisis is capable of giving rise to atypical projects and we must seize this opportunity with joy and vigilance. The Lille Opera has made the courageous choice to maintain this program, despite the impossibility of adapting the staging by Robert Carsen initially planned to the current context. In a very short time, I therefore had to imagine a scenic project that takes into account the presence of the orchestra in the pit, the arrangement of the choristers on the balconies and the soloists on an empty stage, as well as the diffusion of the opera on screens - large and small - without however neglecting the possible presence of a few spectators in the hall, in particular professionals and journalists. Since the singers invest both the stage and the space usually reserved for the spectators, I decided to make the auditorium the place of the action. In Sardou's play as in the opera libretto, the story unfolds successively in Sant'Andrea della Valle, the Palazzo Farnese and the Castel Sant'Angelo. However, each of these spaces is a place of rituals, like a theater, with its staging, its actors and its spectators. The church is the religious theater where the supposed victory of the Austrians over the French is celebrated by a Te Deum, the palace is the theater of power where the social and the political mingle, while the prison is the scene of executions in which willingly assist the people. This choice also helps to bring up the question of the public, spectator of events, and of its possible responsibility in the tragedy that is taking place, or rather of its involvement in an established societal model which it does not have the courage to embrace. extract and which leads him to attend church as well as to come to terms with terror through receptions and personal interests, or to feast with voyeurism on atrocities which - he thinks - does not will never touch.


How do you work with the singers in the perspective of a recording?

I first want to underline the relevance and the quality of this casting. I do it all the more freely since I arrived on the project after the singers were chosen by the production. Both the three main roles - Tosca, Mario and Scarpia - as the other characters, are embodied by artists that I find ideal, both vocally and physically. I have the same demands on them for the capture as for the scene, but with perhaps even more attention to the bodily engagement and of course to the play of looks, very important for the camera. . Generally speaking, when I conduct lyrical singers, I am very sensitive to physical tension and its harmony with the intensity of the music. And here more particularly again, facing the nudity of a theater stage defined in space as in emotion by the lights of Nathalie Perrier. The actor, through his presence and his relationship to the other, is the very structure of the perception of the staging. As for the music, I am delighted that it has been entrusted to the Orchester National de Lille under the direction of Alexandre Bloch. Puccini gives a very important expressive role to the orchestra, which ensures a real dramatic function, just like the voices. In this sense, it is almost cinematographic music, and therefore adapts very well to a filmed opera.


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