The world-famous Italian mezzo-soprano is taking over as director of the Monegasque institution, and has devised an outstanding programme starting in January, to be experienced in the gilded surroundings of the Salle Garnier.
Entering the Opéra de Monte-Carlo is like taking an amazing journey back in time, as the vast curtains of the theatre, which overlooks the Mediterranean, close to reveal the light of the stage and the sublime setting, which plays over the variations of five shades of gold.
The opera house was built in less than a year by the celebrated Parisian architect Charles Garnier – winner of the Grand Prix de Rome – in order to enlarge the Casino de Monte-Carlo with a space dedicated to music. When it opened in 1879 it was an instant, resounding success because of its excellent acoustics. The building was decorated by a number of artists whom Charles Garnier had met at Villa Medici, and has since been further enhanced through an ambitious renovation project begun in 2005, during which the pillars were recast from the original mouldings by Félix Chabaud. In 2007 Jean-Louis Grinda was appointed director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and he went on to present fifteen and a half seasons, working with soloists, musicians, choir singers and technical staff. In 2016 he founded Les Musiciens du Prince-Monaco with Cecilia Bartoli, the ensemble’s artistic director. Featuring some of the world’s finest musicians playing on period instruments, the group was created to reconnect with the tradition of European court music, and performs a repertoire that gives pride of place to Handel, Vivaldi and Rossini.
Following the inaugural concert at the Prince’s Palace, the orchestra has played across Europe, forging strong links with the musical community. The mezzo-soprano, who has appeared on the world’s most celebrated stages to perform music from the baroque period and beyond, has now decided to pour her talent and experience into the Opéra de Monte-Carlo by becoming its new director in January 2023. “The Opéra de Monte-Carlo is an institution with a prestigious and colourful history. I like to think that my first operatic season reflects some of its characteristics, as I see them: a careful consideration of its history while looking forward to the future; a variety of styles and genres with the accent on prestige and grandeur, but also intimacy; and of course, all the productions presented will be of the highest possible standard,” explains Cecilia Bartoli in her introduction to the new 2023 season, which also reflects her own personal journey, as she has invited artists with whom she has worked over the years.
A musical programme spanning three centuries
After Jean-Louis Grinda’s final season comes to an end this winter, the curtain rises in 2023 with Alcina by Georg Friedrich Handel, which will be performed on 20, 22, 24 and 26 January. “I chose this production because it is visually very beautiful, and it is also deeply intelligent and philosophical,” says the singer, who will play the title role of the enchantress in this production by Christof Loy, coproduced with Zurich Opera. On 25 January the choir of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo will present Rossini’s Stabat Mater, one of the finest works of Italian sacred music. “I think it’s important to produce this type of repertoire, and to provide our wonderful ensembles with specific opportunities to shine,” says the mezzo-soprano. The season continues with Umberto Giordano’s opera Andrea Chénier, on 19, 21, 23 and 25 February. The role of the tormented French poet and revolutionary will be played by Jonas Kaufmann, who is appearing for the first time in the Principality. Cecilia Bartoli’s father, who had an exceptional dramatic tenor voice, used to sing the opera to her when she was a child. Next on the programme, on 10 March, is a recital that pays tribute to Daniel Barenboim on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The great pianist helped Cecilia Bartoli to “enter the marvellous and sometimes frightening world of music”.
La traviata follows on 17, 19, 21 and 23 March, in a stunning production by Jean-Louis Grinda which had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic and has now been incorporated into this new season. The talented Mexican tenor Javier Camarena plays Alfredo, with Plácido Domingo in the role of Giorgio Germont. On 20 March the legendary Vienna State Opera and Vienna Philharmonic join forces to present an authentic version of Le nozze di Figaro. This is followed by a production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia that was first staged at the 2022 Salzburg Festival with Cecilia Bartoli: “All seven performances of this Barbiere instantly sold out. Rolando Villazón has created a production that is incredibly fast-paced, funny and precise. For us, as singers, it was fantastic to work with a director who is also a singer.” The season closes on 17 April with a version of Monteverdi’s Orfeo that evokes the wonder of childhood, featuring the string puppet company Carlo Colla e Figli and Cecilia Bartoli’s beloved Musiciens du Prince-Monaco, with whom she will continue to tour and perform at major international festivals. “This is a great way of showcasing Monaco’s reputation for artistic and musical excellence in Europe’s biggest cultural centres!”, explains Cecilia Bartoli.
by Tanja Stojanov