Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Baby, I'm A Star

March 29, 2010

François Loup, Julie Boulianne, and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt
Photo: Carol Rosegg/NYCO 2010

To follow-up the very satisfying production of Thomas’ Hamlet currently playing at the Metropolitan Opera, I decided to check out the other major French opera offering in New York this weekend. Right across the Lincoln Center Plaza, the back-from-the-brink New York City Opera is presenting a revival of Chabrier’s L’Etoile. This comic operetta looks good in Mark Lamos’ sparse but modern production. The late 19th-century Belle Epoque-styled costumes contrasted with the elaborate lighting and the mirrored archways of the set. This is the kind of thing that gets called "charming" and that may be fair considering that it's likely to be enjoyed as much by an adult as a well-behaved 12 year-old. There are giant-sized inflatable chairs and plenty of sight gags. But the music and vocal performances are taken quite seriously making it a very worthwhile afternoon.

But the real treat besides Emmanuel Plasson’s conducting of the orchestra was a chance to hear Jean-Paul Fouchécourt. The comic tenors’ appearances in this country may not have been as frequent as one would hope given the type of opera repertory he excels in. But in both Baroque and French character roles he is unsurpassed. His King Ouf with his bald white head and cracked crown is the centerpiece of L'Etoile. Better yet, he is surrounded by an excellent cast including Julie Bouliannne as Lazuli, the peddler whose fate is bound to the king by the stars, creating all sorts of complications. It's a high-energy part that Boulianne is wise not to overplay in something so delicate. The other major female roles sung by Jennifer Zetlan and Liza Forrester were equally well done. Much like Hamlet, I most enjoyed L'Etoile because it re-exposes a whole world of beautiful music not always given its due in these parts. It's worth seeing, particularly if this is new material for you as well. There are two more performances - on April 1 and a family matinee on April 3.


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