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Chabrier's "L’Étoile" Glows at New York City Opera
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Chabrier's "L’Étoile" Glows at New York City Opera

- Classical and Cultural Connections


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L’Étoile
By Emmanuel Chabrier
At
New York City Opera
www.nycopera.com
David H. Koch Theater
www.lincolncenter.org

Music by Emmanuel Chabrier
Libretto by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo
Conductor, Emmanuel Plasson
Production Director, Mark Lamos
Assoc. Stage Director, Alain Gauthier
Choreographer, Seán Curran
Set Designer, Andrew Lieberman
Costume Designer, Constance Hoffman
Lighting Designer, Robert Wierzel
Sound Consultant, Abe Jacob
Supertitles, Cori Ellison

Cast:
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt as King Ouf I
François Loup as Siroco
William Ferguson as Hérisson de Porc-Épic
Jennifer Zetlan as Laoula
Andrew Drost as Tapioca
Liza Forrester as Aloès
Julie Boulianne as Lazuli
Ensemble as:
Patacha, Zalzal, Zinnia, Koukouli, Adza,
Asphodèle, Oasis, Youca, Chief of Police,
Bishop, Servant

Chorus Master, Charles F. Prestinari
Asst. Chorus Mstrs., Sharon Bjorndal Lavery, Nicholas Fox
Associate Conductor, Ryan McAdams
Musical Preparation, William Barto Jones,
Steven Mosteller, Curt Pajer
Assistant Stage Directors, Albert Sherman, Mike Philips
Stage Managers, Anne Dechêne, Jenny Lazar, Peggy Imbrie
French Language Coach, Jennifer Ringo

Publicity Coordinator: Shara Seigel

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 1, 2010


On re-visiting New York City Opera, I was immediately struck with the scintillating simplicity of the sets, that never drew attention from the performers, but rather created an avant-garde, mesmerizing tableau, on which to gaze, while listening to some of the finest voices I’ve heard in years. L’Étoile, Chabrier’s 1877 comic opera, had a brief run when it opened in Paris, and, until tonight, I was unfamiliar with this musical French farce. Mark Lamos, Production Director, had a sense of comedic timing, and brought out the essential wit and lyricism of the opera’s composer and librettists. Briefly, it concerns King Ouf the First (Jean-Paul Fouchécourt), who, as is his birthday custom, finds a subject to execute to amuse himself. Lazuli (Julie Boulianne, a mezzo-soprano in a “trouser role”), a peddler, escapes execution, because the king’s astrologer, Siroco (François Loup), creates a tale of impending doom for the King; should Lazuli die, so would the King, who switches course and treats his prisoner as a royal guest. Lazuli’s long life would seem to extend the King’s own destiny.

The plot takes twists and turns, including the Ambassador, Hérisson de Porc-Épic (William Ferguson), his wife, Aloès (Liza Forrester), his secretary, Tapioca (Andrew Drost), and Princess Laoula (Jennifer Zetlan), another monarch’s daughter, who was to marry King Ouf. Lazuli and Laoula, however, fall immediately and everlastingly in love. Like true French farce, there’s a giant yellow armchair, on which Lazuli climbs by ladder, which houses a huge dagger inside the seat cushion, offstage gunfire, cross-dressing, hidden identities, elopement, a huge ticking clock, and over the top paranoia of impending death. Both the staging and sets create a surreal, colorful ambiance, with childlike humor that entertained a few families in the audience. Yet, this was sophisticated theatrics, and the complex plot required outsized acting talent and spotlighted solos to keep the viewer riveted. Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo wrote the libretto, which was transcribed and simulcast on an above stage screen.

The entire cast sang in natural, perfected French lyrics. Mr. Fouchécourt, tenor, exuded amusing presence as King Ouf, with an enormous topcoat-robe and quintessential crown. He was vulnerable, charming, and consumed with ego and survival. François Loup, bass-baritone, was a conniving, cunning Siroco, always in charge, but in deference to the King. William Ferguson, tenor, exuded pretension and shallowness with smug, but endearing dramatics. Jennifer Zetlan, soprano, as Princess Laoula, sang her lead role with glowing, rapturous tones, while Andrew Drost, tenor, as Tapioca, sang with clarity and eloquence. Liza Forrester, mezzo-soprano, as Aloès, a minor role, became a glittering musical presence as the opera progressed. But, it was Julie Boulianne, mezzo-soprano, as the trouser-dressed Lazuli, the royally imprisoned lover of Laoula, who dashed out rear windows, climbed high onto the giant armchair, and effectively shone, throughout the entire production, with persuasive personality and resonant vocal talent.

This was one athletic, gym-fit opera ensemble, and the choreographer, Seán Curran, kept the action spritely and lively. Mark Lamos also had a fine design ensemble, and Andrew Lieberman’s sets, Constance Hoffman’s costumes, and Robert Wierzel’s lighting added a bright storybook quality to the adorable antics and spirited music that unfolded through three acts. I was especially drawn to Mr. Lieberman’s mesmerizing sets, with glittering colors, warmed by Mr. Wierzel’s focused lighting. In fact, to draw the audience into the initial plot, singers were brightly spotlighted, as the lyrics translated above. Tonight’s Conductor, Emmanuel Plasson, kept the New York City Opera cast, Orchestra, and additional choral accompanists buoyant, upbeat, and smoothly melodic. Kudos to tonight’s cast, kudos to Mark Lamos and Maestro Plasson, and kudos to Chabrier.

Photos below include E. V. Day’s vintage, City Opera costume-accessory sculptures, suspended from the ceiling of David H. Koch Theater’s Promenade, in honor of the Company’s new season in the Theater’s refurbished interiors.



New York City Opera Chorus
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


William Ferguson as Hérisson de Porc-Épic,
Liza Forrester as Aloès,
Andrew Drost as Tapioca, Jennifer Zetlan as Laoula
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


François Loup as Siroco,
Julie Boulianne as Lazuli,
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt as King Ouf
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg


Jennifer Zetlan as Laoula,
Julie Boulianne as Lazuli,
Liza Forrester as Aloès
Courtesy of Carol Rosegg




E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower


E. V. Day Opera Costume Sculptures
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower




For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net