- Reading time
- 8 min.
Trilogia Mozart Da Ponte is set in Brussels in the year 2020. The French creative arts company Clarac-Deloeuil > le lab is using Mozart to kick the ‘here and now’ into overdrive by making maximum use of video technology. In parallel to rehearsals for the three operas, the company also mobilized a full film crew and, with all the singers from the cast in tow, made its way to twenty-three surprising locations in Brussels. We went along to the set to talk to le lab directors Olivier Deloeuil and Jean-Philippe Clarac.
Olivier Deloeuil: Video was an important part of le lab when we set up the company in 2009. Actually, our first artistic project was a short film – which, by the way, we still haven’t finished (laughs) – but after that we went on to produce quite a few documentaries. So we have always been interested in the medium and that continued to be the case as we did more and more work in the field of opera.
The use of video in opera makes two important things possible. Firstly, it helps us bridge the gap to our own time and to the world we live in. However modern opera may have become as an art form, we believe it is still often in danger of forgetting the outside world, of forgetting that as well as being an artwork in its own right, opera is also a theatrical experience in a specific social and historical context. To go to the opera is to go and see and listen to a play, but also to visit a building in the heart of a living city. The use of video on stage helps us break open that closed world and observe the city we are working in. And, for us at any rate, that is extremely important.
Because if we want to talk about our time, if we want to give the spectator something he can relate to personally and intimately, we also need to understand where that spectator lives, where he comes from and what his story is. So at the start of each new project we like to explore the city in question, spend time there and meet the locals, feeding our artistic deliberations with what it is that distinguishes that city sociologically, architecturally and culturally. That will definitely be the case in this Trilogia in which we put a lot of Brussels on stage.
SIX TRILOGIA LOCATIONS
1. The funeral home (MANIERA gallery)
A dignitary dies and mourning ensues. All the characters in the Trilogia gather in the funeral home to pay their respects to the deceased. The art and architecture gallery MANIERA on the Place de la Justice / Gerechtsplein served as the film set.
2. The CD recording of Donna Anna (Royal Conservatory of Brussels)
The concert hall at the Royal Conservatory is the perfect location for the latest CD recording of Anna (soprano Simona Šaturová), a gifted, but unbalanced harpsichordist. Her fiancé, the architect Ottavio (tenor Juan Francisco Gatell) looks on from the auditorium.
3. The roof terrace of the apartment building (roof terrace of La Monnaie Workshops)
Sunbathing in the depths of winter. It was a surreal experience for sopranos Lenneke Ruiten and Ginger Costa-Jackson, aka the You Tube influencers Fiordiligi and Dorabella. Fortunately, the roof terrace of our Workshops affords a magnificent view of the Brussels skyline. In the evening, Figaro (baritone Robert Gleadow) and Don Alfonso (baritone Riccardo Novaro) have an exchange of words.
4. Ferrando’s and Guglielmo’s fire station (Asse fire brigade)
They may well have had their backs against the wall before now, but firemen Ferrando and Guglielmo can have little idea of what awaits them today. This shoot gave tenor Juan Francisco Gatell and baritone Iurii Samoilov the chance to pick up a few tips from Asse’s firemen.
5. Don Giovanni’s private club (Val d’Amour, private club)
Nobody pushes the boundaries of sexual exploration further than Don Giovanni. His favourite haunts include his club, where Leporello (Robert Gleadow) is also employed. Val d’Amour in the heart of Brussels provided just the right setting.
6. The Donna Elvira eye clinic (Brussels Eye Doctors)
“Aprite un po’quegli occhi / Uomini incauti e sciocchi” (Open your eyes a little, you inconsiderate, foolish men). The Trilogia is a world of intrigue in which almost all the characters spy and are spied on. A world in which some pay regard to the feelings of others, while others are too blinded by their own passions. A world, too, in which the spectator will scarcely be able to believe his eyes. So ophthalmologist Elvira (Lenneke Ruiten) has her work cut out!
Olivier Deloeuil: A second important aspect of our use of video – always a game with pre-recorded images and live projection – is that it allows us to zoom in on certain actions. This is necessary from the point of view of the narrative. The Trilogia set is an enormous space in which thirteen singers, who play almost twice that number of characters, are constantly in action. There is always something going on, so it is really useful to be able to focus the attention on one element of the set or on one character – and not necessarily the singer who is singing at a particular moment. So it allows us to train the spectator’s gaze and keep the story line clear.
Jean-Philippe Clarac: Video also provides that narrative transparency because we use a clock to show the time at any given moment. It structures the time. Don’t forget, the three operas share a common chronology: if you attend the performance of Don Giovanni and a scene is enacted at 14.00 hours, then it is 14.00 hours for each character in all three plays. At the very same moment, video images allow us to show what the sisters in Così fan tutte are doing, for example, or what Cherubino is up to in Le nozze di Figaro. They serve as a sort of gangway between the different operas.
Olivier Deloeuil: We were careful to ensure that the video and the action on stage complement each other organically. So it is only in interaction with the images of the twenty-three film locations that for the duration of an aria, a duet, an interlude, etc. the various rooms in the apartment building are transformed into a fitness studio, an eye clinic or a club. Often a scene begins cinematographically and we then establish a connection with the stage by means of a single piece of scenery or a prop. A simple example of this might be the aria “Porgi, amor” at the start of the second act of Le nozze di Figaro. The opening bars are accompanied by images of the Contessa in her bath, filmed in a sumptuous bathroom at the Hôtel des Galeries. When the singer Simona Šaturová starts singing, the video gradually fades and we find her in one of the rooms of the building, which we immediately identify as her bathroom - even though the only object we have kept is the bath. So in that sense the apartment building on stage is more of a metaphoric space than a naturalistic set.
Translated by Alison Mouthaan