The director


Vincent Arbelet

Transfiguring the night

The title of our season refers to Schönberg's famous string sextet inspired by Richard Dehmel's poem. Two lovers walk in the moonlight in the depths of a cold, naked forest. The woman reveals that she is bearing another man's child and the world hangs motionless upon that revelation. It could be a scene of tragedy yet no catastrophe takes place. Her lover reassures her, declaring that he will raise the child as his own. And the couple resume their walk through the glimmer of the glittering universe. The year is 1899, and a few years later Schönberg will propel the 20th century into atonality. This Transfigured Night harbours the possibility of surpassing the tragedy of existence just as it contains the potential for the musical revolution to come.

The night takes on a very special meaning in the light of current events. We are living through an unprecedented political, economic, ecological and migratory crisis. The health catastrophe that has struck the world requires a profound transformation of our societies. We too must transfigure the night, imagine other possibilities, other dawns. In Görge the Dreamer, Zemlinsky's eponymous hero finds his salvation neither through taking refuge in dreams nor through choosing renunciation, but on the contrary, by travelling the world to confront his dreams with the violence and harshness of reality. It is in this attempt at dialogue, in this friction between the real and the ideal, that he will succeed in founding a new society.

In a society that dominates our hours of day, night is precious to us. It offers us the ultimate space for resistance where we can reflect on the world in the oblivion of the world. There we can savour an exquisite and perhaps forbidden freedom. This then is the night, at once transgressive and creative, custodian of fears and fantasies, that will be the guiding thread of our entire season. It is the night of celebrations that sees the young Louis XIV dance to impose his power in the face of the world. It is the deceptive night that leads Rigoletto to kill his daughter in the belief that he is saving her. The night in which Scheherazade tells a thousand and one stories to ward off death. The night haunted by a past that refuses to let go. The starry night traversed by the crew of the Journey to the Moon in search of fantastic adventures. The romantic night. The Parisian night. Nights in the gardens of Spain or in Mayan lands...

Every programme expresses a certain vision of opera. With Le Ballet royal de la nuit, our season returns to the roots of lyric art and reminds us of its original link with the representation of political power. Rigoletto offers us the bel canto that Verdi reinvented by placing vocal beauty at the service of dramatic expression. With, on the one hand, Zemlinsky's Görge the Dreamer, a rarity never performed in France, and, on the other hand, Britten's masterpiece The Turn of the Screw, we enter the 20th century head on.

The night is also the night of our theatres: far from the spotlights, behind the scenes where artists, craftsmen and craftswomen work to create the dreams that we call entertainment. This other period of creativity, far from the world's hustle and bustle, requires shadows and silence, calm and reflection, research and experimentation. But we must go further: if the repertoire constitutes the cornerstone of operatic programming, the past must not stifle the present. This is why, as of this season, we have decided to set up a laboratory for operatic creation, the Nancy Opera Xperience, at  Lorraine National Opera. The aim of the NOX is to rethink the conception of an opera over the long term, on the premiss that, in order to renew the form of opera, we have to renew its mode of production. This first edition brings together four artists - composer, author and stage directors. The result of their close collaboration is not merely a production but an experience involving the public and the people of Nancy, to whom we posed this direct question: “Are you in love?”.

In these uncertain times, our House must more than ever welcome the debates and questions that crisscross our society. It must remain a place open to exchange and confrontation. It is imperative today that we relate our present. Because opera is political, it is more than ever necessary to shed light on a new generation of talent - performers, conductors and directors... - and to encourage them to take on roles and embrace the great works of the repertoire in order to express their vision. It is up to us to accompany them with all the professionalism and generosity that our Company can offer.

But the current situation also encourages us to reflect upon other forms: performances taking place not on our theatrical stages but on the stage of our imagination. Since opera is an intimate experience, we have commissioned a series of films - which you can find on our website - from artists hailing from fields as diverse as theatre, cinema, visual arts and comic books. We asked them to express their personal relationship to music. They all share a distinctive and intense universe, a keen eye for our times, and vital force capable of nourishing our reflection on the opera of tomorrow.

Matthieu Dussouillez

See also