French opera hits the right note in the US

WASHINGTON- French opera seems to be hitting just the right note in the United States.
Concert halls across America are showcasing francophone conductors and productions with distinct ties to Paris.
"There's still a respect, a love, a fascination for the elegance and poetry of French music," in the United States, said conductor Emmanuel Villaume who holds the baton at the Washington National Opera.

Over the past fifteen years, the 48-year-old has made a name for himself in the New World while conducting operas such as "Werther" and "Le Cid" by Jules Massenet, as well as "The Tales of Hoffmann" by Jacques Offenbach.
He's not the only Frenchman to have established himself stateside.
Others include colleague Philippe Auguin, music director at the Washington National Opera, Ludovic Morlot at the Seattle Symphony and Lionel Bringuier at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
But these orchestra chiefs are by no means household names in their homeland -- much like the operas they conduct.
"In France, there's a tendency to look down on our own repertoire," Villaume told AFP in an interview. "If Massenet had been German or Italian, he would be much more acclaimed by his compatriots."
"Werther," a production of which Villaume is currently presenting, was very well received by audiences in the US capital. Loosely based on the literary classic by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the rendition stars Italy's tenor Francesco Meli.
To Villaume, the suffering and passion portrayed by Massenet places him on a pedestal.
"Massenet is not a footnote in music history... he produced masterpieces."
In coming months, other French operas to hit US stages include "Beatrice and Benedict" by Hector Berlioz in Boston. New York's Metropolitan Opera, meanwhile, has placed a laundry list of French creations -- including works by Georges Bizet, Charles Gounod and Francis Poulenc -- on its upcoming program.

Saturday, May 19th 2012

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