© Elisabeth Carecchio
Live from Aix 2010: World premiere of Un Retour
July 5, 2010
This article is the fourth and last in a series on the 2010 Aix festival. Read the previous articles in our Culture section.
The audience gave a rousing salute of approval on Sunday night to the world premiere of Un Retour - El Regreso, a one-act chamber opera by Argentine composer Oscar Strasnoy, based on the novel El Regreso by his compatriot Alberto Manguel. Commissioned especially for the Aix Festival, Un Retour recounts a man's return to his native country, after 30 years of exile, where he is confronted by the ghosts of the past and the young woman he once loved. Although the country remains unnamed, the history is clearly that of Argentina at the time of the military dictatorship and the desaparacidos.
More a theatrical work set to music that a true opera, Un Retour is minimally but beautifully staged in the courtyard of the Grand Saint Jean château (north of Aix) by Thierry Thieû Niang, with an on-stage chamber ensemble-two pianos, a trumpet, a trombone and lots of percussion-conducted by Roland Hayrabedian. Sung in a mélange of French, Spanish and Latin, the libretto integrates references to Virgil's Aeneid, to Aeneas's abandonment of Dido and his descent into Hades.
The sung-through dialogue, often staccato, solo, in chorus or in polyphonic counterpoint, is effective and often powerfully expressed by the uniformly excellent cast, mostly young singers affiliated with the Festival's European Academy of Music. Job Tomé and Hugo Oliveira alternate in the principal role of Nestor Fabris, and sopranos Mariana Rewerski and Amaya Dominguez alternate as his long-lost Marta.
During the Festival, Un Retour is preceded by brief interludes in three locations in the Grand Saint Jean gardens: madrigals sung on alternate nights by sopranos Dominguez and Rewerski; a contemporary dance solo; and readings from Virgil and other classics.
Still to come at the Festival: opening July 16, Rameau's Pygmalion, along with fragments from Hippolyte et Aricie, performed by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants with choreography by Trisha Brown; and the London Symphony Orchestra in concert July 17 (Berlioz), and 18 (Beethoven and Sibelius). The closing concert on July 21 will include the young musicians of the European Academy of Music along with the LSO.
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