So what’s Edwin Crossley-Mercer been up to just weeks before his Carnegie debut? Why portraying the fashionista Karl Lagerfeld at the Theater an der Wien of course. Robert Carson’s modern production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Platée appears poised to take the world of opera by storm.
Listen to the reviews from ORF and BR Klassik by clicking on the links below. Though this seemingly stunning production has not yet hit the States, you can catch a special concert staging with the cast and Les Arts Florissants for one night only on April 2, 2014 at Lincoln Center.
“Platée – Persiflage in Wien” – from the Austrian broadcaster ORF
And now to culture. The composers of the Baroque period often wrote their operas in honor of the monarchs. Jean-Philippe Rameau was no exception. His comic opera Platée was conceived as a wedding opera. However, the premiere in Versailles met mixed reviews, as it was essentially a satire of aristocratic vanity. The Theater an der Wien has adapted the work as a delicious parody of the fashion world.
Platée is ugly, yet confident, believing that any man would be hers at the snap of her fingers. Marcel Beekman portrays her most convincingly at the Theater an der Wien.
“It has to be both witty and charming. I assume that Rameau chose to use a higher male voice as a way of drawing attention to Platée’s absurd uniqueness. She is, after all, a nymphomaniac who has never even had sex before. She thinks every man is in love with her; she wants every man.”
Robert Carson brings this 18th century satire into the fashion world of the 21st century. Jupiter, who is faithful for once, is represented as Karl Lagerfeld. His ever- jealous lover Juno appears as Coco Chanel. All’s well that ends well–but not so for Platée. For all her ugliness and naiveté, she has only her honesty to boast.
Premierenkritik: Rameau’s “Platée” am Theater an der Wien– from BR Klassik
The evening seemed to be over before it had even begun. Roaring, ceaseless applause and cheers hailed a wittily modern production by Robert Carson, combined with the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau, who died 250 years ago this year.
Platée, Rameau’s first comic opera, is about an unsightly and dimwitted water nymph, who believes every man to be desperately in love with her. The God Jupiter uses Platée to appease his overly jealous wife, Juno, by arranging a fake wedding. In the end, the joke is on Platée, distraught and ugly as ever. But what gives them the right to do so? Robert Carson deals with this and many other critical questions in his production, setting the plot among today’s haut monde.
We are taken to the hub of this high society: a fancy bar with mirrored walls and flooring, frequented by loud hipsters, some elegant, some terrifying, nearly all with a cell phone glued to one ear or the other. And then there’s Platée: She is different, and is commensurately scorned.
The second act has the audience in tears, as Jupiter and Juno enter the stage as Karl Lagerfeld (live cat included) and Coco Chanel. La Folie’s appearance alla Lady Gaga was a close contender. But we are never allowed to forget Platée, the zany creation of Dutch tenor Marcel Beekman.
The orchestra pit was warmed by the ensemble “Les Arts Florissants”, under the baton of Paul Agnew. Agnew, a Rameau specialist and assistant director of the ensemble since 2007, had taken over for Maestro William Christie, fallen ill in the thick of rehearsals in Vienna and forced to undergo heart surgery. There was a palpable sense of harmony and communication between himself and the orchestra.
The period instruments wielded by the musicians were no obstacle to a brilliantly modern interpretation. As is most certainly clear by now, the crowd went absolutely wild.
While Marcel Beekman received the biggest applause for the title role, the rest of the ensemble was no less appreciated: Simone Kermes as Folie, Emili Renard as Juno, and Edwin Crossley-Mercer as Jupiter, among others. And of course for the entire production team, led by Robert Carson.
A very special thanks to Spencer Miller for the translations of the German reviews.