Photo: Jef Rebillon
Tonight, Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rennes is ringing with history and tales. The Opéra de Rennes opens its season with a production by Angers-Nantes Opéra, a staged version of three sacred baroque oratorios, Jonas and Jephta by Giacomo Carissimi, and Le Reniement de Saint-Pierre by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Christian Gagneron’s staging translates the contents of the texts into stage movements and dresses the singers according to their roles. The narrators are wearing contemporary street clothes, the protagonists’ costumes match the era of the music. Claude Masson’s lustrous colours, more or less shiny fabrics, armouries and togas, reinforce music’s theatrical, and call to mind its historical function. Thus, sitting in the resounding cathedral, neither very warm nor very comfortably seated, right in the historical centre of the old city, one can imagine how the public felt in days of yore, filled with wonder and awe by this music from heaven. The luminous ensemble Stradivaria, conducted by Bertrand Cuiller, assumes the instrumental part with warmth and discretion, carrying the singers and shining in an instrumental intermezzo by Charpentier, his deep and deeply moving In Nativitatem Domini Canticum : Nuit and the Ouverture des Plaisirs de Versailles. In this production, the choir of Angers-Nantes Opéra can show the finesse of its singing and the beauty of its voices, supported only by three exterior soloists. The grand tenor Hervé Lamy gives his voice to Jonas and Jephta. With his clear and natural timbre and perfect mastery of baroque singing, he incarnates his characters with passion and warmth and gives meaning to the Latin words. Soprano Hadhoum Tunc is his daughter in Jephta. With her warm, lush, rounded and generous voice, she is convincing and very moving as the young girl who falls victim to a father’s rash word and the ensuing tragedy. Tenor Francisco Fernández-Rueda, finally, is Saint Peter in the Charpentier oratorio, and takes on the Salve Regina by André Campra. A luminous voice and strong stage presence make him a convincing apostle and give depth to the Salve Regina. A lovely evening with a production that we’d like to see taken up again and again.