The announcement made to Marie, composition and staging – WebThéâtre :: News about shows, theatre, opera, music, dance

On the occasion of the creation of Philippe Leroux’s opera, on October 9 in Nantes, Philippe Leroux, composer, and Célie Pauthe, in charge of the staging, tell us more.

Philippe Leroux, Célie Pauthe, this opera is your first joint project. Can you tell us about your meeting and how this collaboration is going?

PhL: We owe our meeting to Alain Surrans (General Manager of Angers-Nantes Opéra, editor’s note). Alain, knowing the contours of my first opera, recommended Célie to me, whose performance I went to see, which I found magnificent. We met, we had interesting discussions, and the story did not stop! It happened to me to work with other artists, but here, I must say that it is really an exceptional collaboration. Every time Célie suggests something, I agree! We began our work with the same idea: bringing Claudel’s voice into the opera.

CP: For me too, it’s an incredible adventure. I have worked relatively little with contemporary authors, and never for such long periods of time: here, we conduct a dialogue with Philippe from start to finish, on the whole genesis of the project. Philippe sent me the prologue almost two years ago, and from those twenty minutes of music, I dreamed up the other four acts.

PhL: Célie appropriated the music over time, since I only finished composing this opera recently, in June 2022.

Paul Claudel was tortured by this text for fifty-six years, it is said. He made it evolve many times. You called on Raphaèle Fleury to write the libretto. What did you get out of it?

PhL: Indeed, we owe the libretto to Raphaèle Fleury, a great connoisseur of Claudel, who subtly combined a vision that was both open on how to treat Claudel’s work, and strict on fidelity, historical and literary rigor.

CP: Raphaèle Fleury started from the first version of Claudel. She had to cut into this copious text and do a job of reduction, in particular to enter into an operatic framework. It was a work of goldsmith!

Célie Pauthe, you are recognized in theater directing. You are embarking on opera, how do you make this shift?

CP: I had only staged one opera (The bat, with the Académie de l’Opéra de Paris at the MC93 in 2019, editor’s note), I am therefore still at my beginnings and I find it quite extraordinary! The time of filing, of genesis, of maturation has been rich, long and alive from start to finish, it’s quite an exercise! Singers arrive at rehearsals very prepared, even more so than actors in the theatre, even in front of an unpublished work that they must tame.

Philippe Leroux, how does a composer get involved in the rehearsals of an unpublished work?

PhL: A large part of the work was done with the conductor, Guillaume Bourgogne, at the head of the Cairn ensemble, and with his assistant conductor Rémi Durupt. I intervened a lot during the first rehearsals, to clarify what was written. Of course, since it’s new music, no one knows it, except what I dreamed about it. I would say that even myself I don’t know it, I have to discover it with the chef, the singers!

Did you have any surprises going from the score to the stage?

PhL: No, I didn’t really encounter any surprises, except for a few moments when the singers spontaneously read what I had composed. We didn’t get to rehearsals right away, we did some pre-recordings, which allowed us to rough out the work, and gave Célie the opportunity to discover what it was going to become.

Would you say it’s difficult music for musicians, singers?

PhL: Some would say “yes” to you, because they are used to 19th century repertoire; others, no. I ask singers for slightly different vocal techniques. It is a new language, which is not virtuoso but which requires precision, with micro-intervals, precise modes, particular rhythms. Singers have to know their role by heart, master their acting, and I realize that can do a lot!

We’re talking about vocals, but you’ve also worked with the Cairn ensemble, and electronic music additions. Were you looking for a paste, a particular musical color?

PhL: I will answer your question in three parts. The first aspect is the use of Claudel’s voice, which we synthesized with IRCAM, thus taking up a technological challenge. We used learning methods by neural networks (more commonly called methods of machine learning, note). The second aspect was my desire, indeed, to enrich the sound paste, not because there was something missing, but because there are other possible musical parameters with electronics. From this point of view, I see a continuity with certain pieces that I composed previously, although the operatic framework imposes to be less virtuosic. Finally, you have to take into account the conceptual aspect, since I analyzed the spelling, the writing of Claudel in order to generate rhythms, melodic profiles, changes of timbres. His writing generates musical movements.

On the visual part, you went for a walk in the Tardenois, the land of Claudel. What is the meaning of this approach?

CP: It’s something I’ve often enjoyed doing: going for a walk, dreaming in landscapes contained in works. When Philippe told me that the first thing we would hear in this opera would be Claudel’s voice, I took my car to Tardenois (geographic region east of Aisne, editor’s note). We feel in these lands moments when time stands still, we find there the Middle Ages dreamed of by Claudel, which Philippe knew how to reinvent. There is in The Annunciation made to Mary gaps in time, but also moments when time expands. The interpreters then no longer have access to the entire text, but only to a few words to which they cling, like submerged treasures. The music, in addition to creating real suspense, produces a feeling of a temporal breach, pockets of imagination. The perception of time seems disturbed. The idea of ​​looking for images in the Tardenois is a game with memory, these are images that we will look for to immerse ourselves in Claudel’s childhood. There is like a mise en abyme, to dream and ask oneself: what if The Annunciation made to Mary was done in Claudel’s office?…

What do these landscapes look like?

CP: Claudel wrote a lot about his country, an arid country, windy, plowing wheat, where some cathedrals can sometimes be seen in the distance. It’s a very austere country that we filmed in summer and winter, respecting the cycle of the seasons. We are far from the Mediterranean shores, but this land contains strength, with outcropping sandstone and impressive sites.

Let’s come back to the text, Philippe Leroux, which you have chosen. What is The announcement represents for you?

PhL: For years I was looking for a text or a spark to write this opera. When I read this text, I found all the ingredients: a very strong dramaturgy, something that speaks of humanity, of the Earth, of passions, and something more spiritual, mystical or metaphysical, with the Violaine’s sacrifice, her sister’s faith. What I liked about Claudel is the poetry of his verb, which immediately suggests musical language. From the beginning, apart from the harmonies deduced from his spelling, I therefore only followed the text, nothing else, without preconceived ideas. Claudel’s writing is musical, he makes a difference between syntactic structure and verses, and uses a lot of images and sounds. I used his work on consonants a lot, especially a passage where the singers only work with onomatopoeia.

You talk about spiritual, metaphysical, mystical: do you avoid the word “religious”?

PhL: The word “religious” has a lot of connotations for me, in relation to a specific religion, specific gestures. Here, we are in the ambiguity of the characters, they are not saints of the golden legend. I prefer to evoke the broader notion of the spiritual than to speak of the religious. Especially since Paul Claudel often sticks to an image of a fervent Catholic, which I wanted to go beyond. Of course, religion is still latent, it’s a Christian text, with words and actions that refer to Catholicism, with blessings, many quotes from the Gospel for example. Religion makes it possible to make the spiritual concrete.

Claudel said that his Announcement was a “talking opera”. Does that mean anything to you, Célie Pauthe?

CP: It’s the first time I’ve worked on a text by Paul Claudel and the musical dimension of a work is still new to me. It is therefore doubly dizzying. I believe that dramaturgy claudelienne is full, whole, that it is not altered either by Philippe’s music or by this libretto by Raphaèle. Philippe’s gesture is very accurate and faithfully transcribes the relationships between the characters, the sensations that run through them, the movement of life at each moment.

The music manages to tell precisely, second after second, like a sensitive plate.

I feel like a speleologist, a gold digger. There is such richness in this work that it took me a long time to understand it.

For an uninformed public who would like to be tempted, how can we tell what is going to happen in The Annunciation made to Mary ? What is your promise, what are the strengths of this work?

PhL: Everything that happens in this piece is authentic in affects and feelings. I am one of those who think that, when the work presented is deep, sincere, there is no need to make concessions for the public, which is neither childish nor stupid. Authentic also in the transcription of the text, in the characters that Claudel thought. The drama is particularly well constructed, the feelings are real. I know opera audiences well, there had to be a relationship in this novelty with what the audience knows. So I played the opera card, respecting its forms. There is a narration that you can follow, arias, duets, trios. I took charge of the codes of the opera, dusting them off for some.

CP: I would say “gigantic”. Sincerely, this work is extraordinary, in the literal sense first: the resurrection of a child on Christmas Eve, a miracle. It’s a play that asks us all to have faith in fiction, we have to believe in it!

Interview by Quentin Laurens.

The announcement made to Marie, composition and staging – WebThéâtre :: News about shows, theatre, opera, music, dance – Paris