Lyon Opera's Dorny wants to stand out from crowd

Thu Jun 9, 2011 5:20am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LYON, France (Reuters Life!) - It's not often that an opera house has to scramble around last minute to find a new director for the biggest production of the year, but Opera de Lyon's general director Serge Dorny did, and came up trumps.

Less than a year ago -- which is microseconds in opera time -- Dorny said he was told by German-born director Jossi Wieler he would be unable to do a new production of Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," which had its premiere last Saturday, because he was taking over the Stuttgart opera.

"I was upset," the 49-year-old, Belgium-born Dorny told Reuters during an interview in his office at the opera house, which is a blend of a modern building with walls from a 19th century structure and overlooks Lyon's city hall.

"Why was I upset? Because it was 'Tristan' and finding a new director for 'Tristan' is not like finding a new director for (Mozart's) 'Cosi fan Tutte'. It is a very complicated opera and as intendant (general director) you do it once in a takes time to get into it and it is something that is part of your legacy, something you will leave behind."

As it turned out, the production that Dorny has provided, by dint of convincing Alex Olle of the Catalan stagecraft collective La Fura dels Baus to jump into the breech, is every bit the winner he will be proud to leave behind.

The French newspaper Le Monde said it was a "Tristan" that "reached almost to the heavens" while Le Temps said that Danish soprano Ann Petersen, singing the fiendishly challenging role of Isolde for the first time, was "a revelation."

They are the kind of rave reviews and it was the kind of production that should help Dorny in his goal of assuring Opera de Lyon is implanted on the world opera map so there is as much interest in its season as there is in London's Covent Garden, New York's Metropolitan Opera or that bigger, better-funded operation just up the road in a city called Paris.

Here's what else he had to say about the opera's links to Lyon and the underprivileged parts of the city, its budget and the scene outside the opera doors, where hip-hop dancers from the 'hood meet the opening night audience dressed for the opera:   Continued...