"Opera and Theater in Metz" Top 5 Page for this destination Metz by Nemorino
Metz Travel Guide: 186 reviews and 581 photos
Metz, which in French is pronounced approximately like the English word mess (but with a different vowel sound, in French it's open-mid front unrounded and in English it's close-mid front unrounded, okay?), is a city of 124,000 people on the Moselle River.
Their opera house, the Opéra-Théâtre on the Place de la Comédie (in the center section of the building shown in the first photo) was built between 1738 and 1753. It is said to be the oldest theatre in France that is still functioning as such.
If you want to see an opera there you will have to schedule your visit carefully, because they only do five opera productions each season, with three performances of each. That makes fifteen performances per year – not exactly a hotbed of operatic activity.
Just for comparison, the Frankfurt Opera is doing eighteen performances of six different operas this month alone (figures for April 2006). Of course Frankfurt is five times as big as Metz, so the difference is understandable, still you should know that you can't just breeze into Metz any old time and expect them to be performing an opera that same evening.
Typically each opera in Metz is performed on a Friday, a Sunday and a Tuesday evening. When I was there in April 2006 I went to the Tuesday performance because the other two were sold out, at least that's what it said on their website.
The opera I saw on that Tuesday evening was Les liaisons dangereuses by Claude Prey (1925-1998), a 20th century French composer whom I must admit I had never heard of before. The opera is based on a celebrated 18th century novel of the same name, by Choderlos de Laclos (1741-1803).
Both the novel and the opera are about the mores (not morals because they didn't have any) of a certain kind of decadent French aristocrats in the bad old days before the French Revolution. These folks were contemporaries of the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), from whose name the word sadism was derived. Their idea of a good time was to seduce people they considered particularly virtuous, and lead them into a life of debauchery. One of the characters, the Vicomte de Valmont, accomplishes this twice during the opera.
There are five singers in this opera and five musicians, who play on 18th century instruments. Each musician is supposed to have a particular relationship to a particular singer, but I'm afraid this aspect was lost on me.
I was curious to hear what kind of music a 20th century composer would write for 18th century instruments to tell an 18th century story. My impression, on first listening, was that the music was quite harmless, meaning it did not grate on the ears but also did not make any particular impression. Perhaps if I were to hang around French opera houses more often I would develop more of an ear for this sort of thing, I don't know.
Actually I was more moved and impressed this time by a play (not an opera) that I saw in Metz at the Theatre du Saulcy. It was called Tentation (Temptation) by the Catalan playwright Carles Batlle, who manages to build up and sustain dramatic tension despite the fact that four of the five scenes are monologues. The first is by Hassan, a middle-aged Moroccan man who has entered Spain illegally and hopes for assistance from Guilem, the son of a Spaniard he had known decades before during the filming of Lawrence of Arabia in Morocco. The monologue is addressed to Guilem, who is in the next room and may or may not be listening. It turns out he was taking a shower at least part of the time.
A young woman, Aixa, has two monologues which she addresses to a video camera, presumably for later viewing by Guilem. She is projected part of the time onto a gauze in front of the stage, so she is visible sometimes live, sometimes projected and often both at the same time. It gradually develops that Aixa is Hassan's daughter. She is also in Spain illegally, having fled a forced marriage in Morocco. Hassan then turns out to have died in some mysterious way, perhaps an accident or perhaps murder. Aixa feels guilty, in any case. Her dilemma, in addition to being in the clutches of the increasingly unscrupulous Guilem, is that she wants to give her father a decent burial (shades of Antigone), but if she does she will blow her own cover as an illegal immigrant and risk deportation.
Guilem has the last monologue. It is addressed to Aixa, but she is gagged and chained by her wrists to the bed frame, so she cannot respond, at least not verbally.
All I know about Carles Batlle is that he was born in 1963 and works as a dramaturge in Barcelona. Tentation was first performed in Barcelona in 2004 in the original Catalan, and later in German in Tuebingen and at the Burgtheater in Vienna. The performance I saw was the first one in French.
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