Posts Tagged ‘Dominique Meyer’

Waiting… Waiting… Waiting…

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

By Frank Cadenhead: The article in today’s Le Figaro could not conceal the anger and frustration. The title “Will the Opéra de Paris Have a Program in 2021?” points to the failure of the opera administration, the Ministry of Culture and the French President Macron himself to finally name a successor to Stephane Lissner for the 2021-22 season. Why this process was not planned a year or two earlier suggests a failure of the current board and management and the weeks that are floating by waiting for the President of the Republic to name a name is only a small number compared with the total time wasted.

The short list, published April 19, is composed of Dominique Meyer, now heading the Vienna State Opera, Olivier Mantei, the director of the Opéra-Comique, Peter de Caluwe, currently in charge at La Monnaie in Brussels and Alexander Neef, heading Toronto’s opera. Macron did not delegate his responsibility in naming the opera head to the Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, so, as weeks pass, the silence continues. While Macron is dealing with a declining Yellow Vest protest and the fire at Notre Dame, other things do not get his attention.

Since opera companies plan several years in advance, this failure to plan will deal a serious blow to the incoming steward. The article notes that the Met and Madrid’s Teatro Real are now planning for 2023-24 and London, Vienna and Munich already have the productions and co-productions for 2022-23. For singers, the article notes, we are not just talking about firming up dates for Jonas Kaufmann or Anna Netrebko. Michel Franck, director of the Théàtre des Champs-Élysées is quoted in the article as saying “I contacted Stéphane Degout and Stanislas de Barbeyrac for a production in 2022 and I am not sure to have either.” The article notes that major opera directors, like Tchernaikov or Warlikowski, who only work in opera, are booked until 2023. They can only do three or four productions a year and ask for six to eight weeks of rehearsals.

One of the names which could have been on the list of candidates is Serge Dorny, heading the Opéra de Lyon. Over the years he took a regional opera company to the top ranks in Europe. The magazine Opernwelt named Lyon the Opera House of the Year in 2017, only the second time that an opera house outside Germany received that accolade. Dorny, however, was snatched up by the Bavarian State Opera for the 2021-22 season and beyond and has been at work in Munich for over a year planning future seasons.

The new director would certainly have to plan creatively and, the article suggests, the Paris Opéra will need to be “reinvented.” The new director will also need to name a successor to the highly regarded music director Philippe Jordan, among many other tasks made much harder by the delay.

Future Changes at the Paris Opera

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

By: Frank Cadenhead

September 13, 2018. The French website ForumOpé posted a 58 word note on Tuesday which announced something which has not appeared in the major press. It reported that the Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen, has already told Stéphane Lissner that his current term as director of the Opéra national de Paris would not be extended. He will leave, therefore, in 2021. The last sentence notes that the decision was apparently a result of a “bilan mitigé” (which Google translates as “mixed results”) but did not make clear whose opinion this might be. This post has since been deleted. It did, however, set off a storm of writing in the press which confirmed the story and acknowledged that the Culture Ministry is now looking for a replacement. Given the four or five year pre-planning for opera houses, the search is already somewhat tardy. A complication of this Forum Opéra post is that its chief editor, Sylvain Fort, is now in charge of relations with the press for the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. ForumOpé had spoken strongly against Lissner’s alterations of boxes at the Palais Garnier and posted other criticisms of his leadership so the since-deleted “bilan mitigé” comment might been a bridge too far between Fort’s new role and his editorial role at the website.

Lissner, director since July of 2014, will be 68 in 2021 and above the age of retirement for government positions. Some imagined that he might get a waiver, as has been done in the past, and continue for another three years. He has included more advanced staging from controversial directors and has balanced the books despite the annual reduction in government generosity by doubling the income from private sponsors from 10 million to 20 million euros annually. Attendance figures at the two houses are always in the high 90s.

Lissner’s past history is impressive: Théâtre du Châtelet (1988-1997), Aix-en-Provence Festival (1998-2006). At those same periods, Lissner directed two theaters with one of which, the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, he co-directed with theater legend Peter Brook.  Lissner was the first non-Italian to lead the La Scala opera company, 2005 – 2012. Moving on from seven years at the Aix-en-Provence festival (which has almost no government support) he was aware that major commercial brands might be interested in contributing to, and receiving recognition from, the legendary company. With this new financial source, and more challenging programming, he restored the balance sheet and standing of the historic theater after a long period of decline.

For the period beginning in 2014, It was generally accepted that he, or Serge Dorny of the Opéra National de Lyon, might be the logical successor to the conservative Nicolas Joel to take the Paris Opera to a new level of artistic and financial success. Lissner, coming from the La Scala rescue, seemed the careful choice but his programming, productions and casting, while important, maybe lacks a particular flare to garner the international attention many in France would like to see. The artistically adventurous Dorny, who took a plodding regional company in Lyon into the international spotlight, is now only 58 and would still be high on anyone’s list for Paris but is now unavailable: in March, he was named the new intendant of the Bavarian State Opera to start in 2021 and is already spending some of his time in Munich. Dorny’s Opéra national de Lyon now has a broad and challenging repertory and, importantly, the full houses have an average age much younger than when he arrived.

Lissner was the first non-Italian to lead La Scala and Dominique Meyer was the first non-Germanic to lead the VSO. Among names who might take over in Paris, note that Dominique Meyer is approaching his final season, 2019-2020, at the Vienna State Opera. Meyer will be 65 in 2020 and his ten year term saw steady direction and solid attendance. Radical productions were avoided, outrage was seldom heard and conservative Vienna was satisfied. There is a separate company, the Theater an der Wien, whose mission is to probe the edges of modern opera, so Meyer’s job, to continue the tradition of the VSO, was not subject to controversy.  He imported Manuel Legris from the Paris Opera Ballet who revived the moribund ballet and brought it positive international attention. Meyer could be under consideration but there has been some movement in regional companies in France to look to a younger generation for a fresh approach to opera. Nothing has been leaked about a Culture Ministry search committee or have any candidate names been hinted at. At least we know that the process has begun.