Tuesday, June 7, 2016

La Double Coquette puts new twist on Baroque opera at Spoleto Festival USA

L-R: Damon (Robert Getchell), Florise (Isabelle Poulenard), and Clarice (Maïlys de Villoutreys) - Photo by William Struhs 
Adding a new twist to an old opera, “La Double Coquette” delightfully turned the tables at Spoleto Festival USA (Charleston, South Carolina) where I took in the performance on Tuesday, May 31st, at the Dock Street Theatre. “La Double Coquette” is based on “La Coquette trompée” (The Coquette Deceived”), an opera that was written in 1753 by Antoine Dauvergne with a libretto by Charles-Simon Favart. Composer Gérard Pesson reworked the original score, making made 32 “additions” in a refreshing Stravinsky-neo-classical style that slipped seamlessly into the Baroque tradition. Contemporary librettist Pierre Alferi injected new lyrics that changed the direction of the story so that the ending would speak to today’s audiences.
Photo by William Struhs
In the plot of “La Double Coquette,” Florise (Isabelle Poulenard) loves Damon (Robert Getchell), who has taken up with Clarice (Maïlys de Villouyreys). To win Damon back, Florise takes on the guise of a man and tries to lure Clarice away from Damon, but she ends up falling in love with her rival and her rival with her. Damon gets left out, and he accepts it with a shrug. The moral of the story, disclosed in the finale: “If identity is only décor/Liberation is what bodies are for.”

Sung in French (with super titles to aid the audience) and directed by Fanny De Chaillé, the one-act performance (75 minutes) featured the principals sharing the stage with the instrumental ensemble Amarillis, which was led by Violaine Cochard and Héloïse Gaillard.

Photo by William Struhs
Crisp articulation, pinpoint intonation, and emotional directness – sometimes tongue-in-cheek – were hallmarks of the singers, who wore fanciful costumes created by Annette Messager. Email on a tablet – revealing Damon’s alliance with Clarice – was the only prop used. Members of Amarillis wore masks and played with verve, making the scattered dissonant tones seem natural.

This is the first revised Baroque opera I have ever seen, and it bodes well for composers and librettists who are undertaking similar revisions. I wonder what’s next.
Photo by William Struhs

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