Very pleased to start the new series, The Opera Questionnaire, with Belgian journalist, producer, artist manager, blogger, and ForumOpera.com founder, Camille De Rijck. Find him on Twitter over here.
The work (or the scene) that is most likely to make a teenager intrigued by opera?
I think that a grand finale or a large ensemble performing concertante still remain unique to opera. It’s what ultimately convinced Victor Hugo regarding Verdi’s adaptation of Le roi s’amuse (which became Rigoletto): the fact that each character within a quartet can express different feelings at the same time, and still remain comprehensible. So in this sense: maybe the finale of the second act of Nozze di Figaro?
The opera (or the scene) with which to intrigue a pop-music-savvy adult?
Something that will click with their musical universe. I have a friend who loves death metal. He takes me to hear groups like “Cannibal Corpse” or “Dying Fetus”. I was surprised to discover how open he was to the contemporary classical music, and maybe this is because its language in some way relates to the sound fog and the violence of the death metal. But the best bridge for the pop music aficionados is probably the musical. Passing from Hairspray to Sondheim to arrive at Puccini seems to me a reasonable trajectory.
And a film buff?
Probably an opera with a libretto based on a text that was also adopted for film and theatre. Schnitzler’s La Ronde was adopted for the screen by Max Ophuls and made into an opera by Philippe Boesmans [as Reigen in 1993 at La Monnaie – ed]. Shakespeare’s Richard III had many cinematic adaptations – a recent notable one is the 1995 film with the incredible Ian McKellen – but was also adapted for opera by Battistelli. There are many other examples.
The best argument to use with opera traditionalists who argue that productions should be done the one “faithful” way and no other way?
It’s an old and well-known argument: opera isn’t a museological art. So that it can continue to be alive and well, we need to allow room for re-creation. And I think it’s fine to expect that this re-creation be respectful.
Have you ever been moved to tears at the opera?
I don’t think so, no.
Have you ever nearly dozed off at the opera?
Oh yes, frequently. You come across a lot of bad stuff on stage. Truth be told, I am surprised when I don’t nod off. It’s rare.
What kind of behaviour by the fellow audience members do you easily tolerate and what kind inevitably distracts?
I like when people show their enthusiasm – when they let the performers hear that there’s a lively audience in the theatre. Thunderous applause, for instance, I love.
Name three performances about which you always say to your friends, “You had to be there…!”
La Calisto Cavalli / Herbert Wernike
Agrippina Händel / McVicar
Athys Lully / Villégier
A piece that illustrates how well opera understands love or desire.
I’ve recently discovered a duo from one of Handel’s operas, Sosarme, and I was struck by the infinite sensuality of the lines that interweave: “Per le porte del tormento”.
A piece that shows that in effect opera is as political as art gets.
“Vittoria! Vittoria!” that Cavaradossi sings in Tosca.
The Met in HD – overall good (popularizing opera) or overall not so good (taking away the audiences from the local, less glamourous live productions; reinforcing “lookism” for singers)?
I have to say I don’t own a TV and the idea of going to the cinema to watch opera flat out depresses me. Stage, at least, means a direct contact with the voice. If there’s a cinematic screen between us and the performance, it doesn’t really work. But on principle, the HD transmissions are a wonderful idea if they end up inspiring people to go to see live opera.
A composer that never ceases to amaze?
Rossini, because he’s always more complex than we give him credit for. Berlioz, for his ingeniously madcap way with the orchestra. And Mozart, for all the obvious reasons.
A work that keeps revealing new and new layers of meaning and pleasure each time?
Pelléas et Mélisande and maybe, to a lesser degree, Erwartung.