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Transgressing the rules

Matthieu Dussouillez's Foreword

In his essay Une Histoire du vertige, writer Camille de Toledo reminds us that human beings have always sought to understand the world by inventing stories. But over the centuries, a number of these narratives have become bubbles that have imprisoned us in myths: the myth of unlimited growth or that of technical and technological progress supposed to bring us happiness are just a few examples of these deceptive fictions that time has finally disproved. We are now becoming aware of their toxicity: they have legitimised the predation of human beings and the destruction of whole swathes of the living world. We now witness those bubbles bursting, taking with them the world we dreamed of for future generations.

No doubt art does not have the power to stop wars, any more than it is the fire hose that will extinguish the blazes ravaging the forests. Its function is quite different: it allows us to invent other imaginary worlds, to create restorative narratives that symbolically restore our link to the sensory world. This repair begins with a rupture: it implies first of all saying no, rejecting the world as it is, stepping outside the frameworks of thought that have been imposed on us. For this reason we wished to dedicate this season to transgression: positive, creative transgression, breaking with the prohibitions of the old world to embrace what Camille de Toledo calls the "naked world", from which we have been separated by our destructive fictions.

Our season opens with a triptych that takes on the air of a manifesto. Paul Hindemith's Sancta Susanna, Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, Arthur Honegger's Dance of the Dead to a libretto by Paul Claudel: three rare - if not unknown - works brought together in a sole artistic endeavour. In director Anthony Almeida's powerful vision, the common thread running through this triptych is a modern-day heroine who, from the secrets of Bluebeard's Castle to the mysteries of the beyond, is driven by an inextinguishable thirst for knowledge.

The transgression of death orchestrated by Honegger is matched by the transgression of love in The Elixir of Love, where timid Nemorino overcomes all obstacles to seduce the beautiful Adina. After Don Pasquale last season, we continue our exploration of the gems of bel canto with another opera by Donizetti.

In the arts, transgression also means surprising audiences. Art has always possessed this propensity to thwart expectations for the better: it constitutes one of its main driving forces. Nancy - which once hosted the World Theatre Festival - carries contemporary creation in its DNA. As you know, we cherish this creation, and reject the idea it should be synonymous with austerity, reserved for a select few. After Philippe Boesmans' Julie and Like Flesh by Sivan Eldar, we hope to prove this to you once again by inviting one of the most interesting and prolific composers of our time: Diana Soh. She represents a new generation of artists who see opera as an art form capable of tackling current issues head-on. For this project, she is collaborating with an exciting director - Alice Laloy - whose productions draw on the theatre of objects and puppets. Together, they have come up with Time will tell - a highly promising production - about a group of children who have to battle against all odds to survive in a hostile world: a production for which they will take over our stage cage with impressive machines that reproduce rain and storms...

Today's opera must draw inspiration from stage composition that has revolutionised the theatrical landscape over the last few decades: the third instalment of the Nancy Opera Xperience gives us the opportunity to invite Samuel Achache and his accomplices Florent Hubert, Antonin-Tri Hoang and Sarah Le Picard, to contribute their original creative method, which has already proved its worth in the field of musical theatre. The Incredulous, the second new work presented this season, tackles the transgression of reality with a production that flirts with the supernatural and holds a few surprises in store. Far removed from clichés, these two creations - each in a very different register - will change the way we look at contemporary music. This is also the aim of a major creative event, The spring of creation, the springtime of creation, organised with a host of musical partners in the Greater Nancy Metropolitan Area next spring.

We live above
the world, in story bubbles...
Camille de Toledo

Transgression is also social, and - long before the question of cultural rights was raised - what we now call class transgression has often been a favourite subject for opera composers and their librettists. Two of the works on the bill highlight this transgression: in a light-hearted tone, La Cenerentola depicts the social ascent of a modest young girl reduced to slavery and assigned to household chores, who dreams of going to the ball. You will, of course, recognise Cinderella in Rossini's Italian version, which we will be performing over the festive season.

On a darker, more melancholy side, Eugene Onegin tells the story of Tatiana, who dreams of escaping the monotonous life of the family estate and sees her encounter with a flamboyant dandy as the surest way of doing so. A sublime opera of failure, Tchaïkovsky's masterpiece has always been the rallying cry of disillusioned youth who take refuge in their dreams in the face of disenchanting reality.

Far from discouraging us, the times in which we live encourage us to pursue our actions in favour of audiences, to dare to take risks rather than follow a natural inclination that would encourage us to rely on a few successful titles. They also encourage us to work together to create more touring productions, and to develop long-standing and new partnerships, both nationally - with the Ballet de Lorraine, the Philharmonie de Paris, the Operas de Lyon, Rennes and Reims, and the Théâtre de Caen - and internationally - with the Theater Magdeburg, La Cité bleue in Geneva, and the Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg.

This season would be nothing without our Citizen's Opera 2025 project and the many artistic and cultural education initiatives that we will continue to implement. The aim is not simply to open opera up to new audiences, to those who have not had access to it until now. It involves putting these audiences in a creative position, placing them at the heart of artistic projects that start with them and are built around them, so that together we can imagine the new forms that will make the opera of tomorrow. Crossing the boundary that separates the audience from the stage, encouraging citizens to become actors and authors of their own stories, isn't that the most beautiful of transgressions?

Matthieu Dussouillez
Managing Director

See also