Globe-trotting Frenchman takes helm of Paris Opera house

24th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Joel began his career at 20 as an assistant at the legendary Bayreuth Wagner festival, and next season is scheduling in Paris the first two parts of Richard Wagner's four-part "Ring" cycle in a production to be staged by Germany's acclaimed Gunter Kramer.

Paris -- Globe-trotting Frenchman Nicolas Joel on Monday unveiled a star-studded 2009-2010 season for the Paris Opera, the first of his new six-year mandate at one of the world's great opera houses.

Joel, 56, takes over August 1 from Belgian Gerard Mortier at the head of an institution with 1,800 staff and a budget of around 180 million euros for its two theatres, the Opera Bastille and Palais Garnier.

One of his first moves has been to name a music director to head the 174-person orchestra -- Switzerland's Philippe Jordan, at 35 seen as one of the most promising talents of his generation. The last chief conductor was American James Conlon, who left in 2004.

Joel began his career at 20 as an assistant at the legendary Bayreuth Wagner festival, and next season is scheduling in Paris the first two parts of Richard Wagner's four-part Ring cycle in a production to be staged by Germany's acclaimed Gunter Kramer.

The other two parts will follow in the next season, becoming the first such Wagner production at the Paris Opera in more than half a century.

To open the 2009-2010 season, Joel has chosen Gounod's 19th century work Mireille, to be followed by an early 20th century Viennese masterpiece by Korngold and Rossini's La Donna del Lago, the first of the great romantic Italian operas.

Starring in the 20 works scheduled for the season are some of the world's leading singers: Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, Jonas Kaufmann, Marcelo Alvarez, Juan Diego Florez and Joyce DiDonato.

Not to leave out leading French opera names at the country's biggest opera house, Joel has asked the likes of Natalie Dessay, Sophie Koch, Ludovic Tezier and Vincent Le Texier to sing this season.

Russia meanwhile will be in the spotlight for the 2009-2010 season of the Paris Opera ballet, with Rudolf Nureyev's choreography of the Nutcracker Suite as well as George Balanchine and a centenary celebration of Daighilev's Ballets Russes.

Spring will bring a world creation, Siddharta by Angelin Preljocal.

The new Paris Opera director has an impressive track record. He has worked for Chicago's Lyric Opera, London's Covent Garden, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Colon opera house in Buenos Aires.

Though he spent the last years in the southern city of Toulouse, at its Capitole theatre, he denies being "provincial."

"I am Parisian from Mitteleuropa," he said. "My mother was born in Milan. And just look at my career."

In 1981, he staged Samson and Dalila with Placido Domingo in San Francisco and offered Jose Van Dam a debut as Scarpia in Tosca in Lausanne.

He was at Milan's La Scala with La Rondine in 1994 and two years later at New York's Metropolitan Opera for Andrea Chenier.

After working with celebrity singers such as Luciano Pavarotti and Roberto Alagna, he says he has "no problems" with stars.

"Do we need stars at the Paris Opera? My reply is yes", he said.

AFP/Expatica

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