Théâtre du Capitole: Flying on the wings of music in Toulouse
Text: Eddi Fiegel
In the world of international opera and ballet, La Scala in Milan and London’s Covent Garden may be leading lights, but to those in-the-know, the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse is also renowned as one of France’s most prestigious theatres.
In a grand, fabulously impressive 18th-century building, the Théâtre du Capitole houses both the city’s opera and ballet companies, as well as the city orchestra, and has long held a reputation for staging world-class productions featuring world-class performers and directors.
“What we do here at the Théâtre du Capitole is not about blindly following theatrical fashions,” says artistic director Christophe Ghristi, previously of the Opéra National in Paris, “nor about rigidly following classical rules and recreating the past. Our productions are like our opera house – flamboyant and grandiose with spectacular costumes, staging and lighting. They are bold and vibrant, like our Southern European personality and that’s why our audiences love them.”
The theatre’s 2020 season will open with an impressive new staging of Wagner’s final opera Parsifal with major operatic names including renowned Austrian tenor Nikolai Schukoff in the title role, as well as German baritone Matthias Goerne, British baritone Peter Rose and, for her very first time in the role of Kundry, the ‘wild woman’, French mezzo-soprano Sophie Koch.
Wagner’s final opera delves deep into the themes which had marked his earlier artistic and personal life: sin, guilt, redemption, sacred love and secular desire and the opera broke new ground musically. “That’s why it requires four exceptional voices,” says Ghristi.
The opera will also involve a huge cast. “Parsifal is an enormous project,” Ghristi continues, “and will involve the entire opera company and orchestra.”
The production will be staged by the groundbreaking director Aurélien Bory, who has gained a worldwide reputation for his visionary productions and magnificent sets.
“There will be three innovative new sets,” explains Ghristi, “but at the same time, we very much respect the nature of the drama and the sense of spectacle in the original production.”
“Like most opera houses in the south of France and Spain,” he continues, “the Wagnerian tradition is very strong with us and our audiences, so continuing that tradition and staging a lavish production with superb singers and voices is key to what we do. And this is very much a key performance for the Toulouse Opera.”
Productions for 2019-2020
Parsifal will be one of more than a hundred performances included in the new season with some nine operas and five ballets as well as numerous recitals and musical performances by some of the best contemporary artists, including well-known comedy cabaret act Shirley et Dino.
Other operas include Norma, Dialogues L’Élixir d’amour, Platée, Jenůfa and Mefistofele. Both Platée and Mefistofele will be new productions and there will also be early music operas staged, including Monteverdi’s Orfeo, as well as a new work by composer Marc Bleuse – L’Annonce faite a Marie (The Annunciation of Marie / The Tidings Brought to Mary).
“We pride ourselves,” says Ghristi, “on having major-name singers such as Marina Rebeka, Karine Deshayes, Sophie Koch, Matthias Goerne, Ludovic Tézier, Angela Denoke and many others, but we also aim to champion a new generation of French singers, giving them the opportunity to take on grand roles. An example of that will be our production of Rameau’s Platée, directed by renowned Baroque specialist Hervé Niquet.
Following a captivating programme of ballets by legendary choreographer Serge Lifar, ballets include a new work based on the life of painter Toulouse-Lautrec and The Nutcracker. There is also Africa -a new collaboration between two choreographers –Salia Sanou and Bouchra Ouizguen, bringing the dance cultures of their respective countries, Burkina Faso and Morocco, to the Ballet du Capitole, exploring both their differences and their similarities.
“We want to really connect with our audience,” says Ghristi, “to open up their dreams and passions and take them with us on the wings of music. Opera is one of the few places where you can express your dreams and that is thanks to the special kind of alchemy which happens when all our different artistic teams work together – the singers, the technicians, the choir and the ballet. Together we can create magic.”
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