|Emanuelle De Negri|
Written in 1698 on a libretto by Lodovico Forni, this oratorio is composte around the character of Mary Magdalene, seen by the church as the ultimate sinner, and her inner torment at the feet of Christ, as she has to make up her mind about the course of her future life. She is surrounded by a group of other characters, talking to her or among themselves: both Earthly Love and Heavenly Love are trying to persuade her to adopt their lifestyle. Martha agrees with Heavenly Love, a Pharisee is astonished at the conversion to virtue by a girl he thought lost forever, and Jesus Christ himself expresses his joy to welcome a lost sheep back to the flock, thus calling to mind, en passant as it were, the fundamental message of his doctrine: forgiveness. The arias and recitatives follow each other like a rosary of Murano glass pearls, each intervention a little miracle of perfection, full of life and emotions. Tonight at the Opéra de Rennes, a wonderful cast of singers interpreted this work in a masterful way: soprano Emmanuelle De Negri sang the key part of Maddalena. With her sweet and ample voice, and its warm and carnal tones, she was moving and convincing. In a beautiful contrast, Maïlys de Villoutreys’ Martha sounded just as sweet, yet more cristalline, as is proper for a character whose purity is untainted. Countertenor Damien Guillon sang the part of Heavenly Love while conducting, and if in the recitatives he sounded a bit tense, in the arias he showed all the light of his warm voice, giving life and credibility to the concept of Heavenly Love. Mezzo-soprano Benedetta Mazzucato was his counterpart as Earthly Love, a bit petulant, a bit impertinent, and both confronted each other in a minimalist and convincing stage play. Le Banquet Céleste supported the singers with a warm and golden sound; the soloists’ interventions were miracles of attention and finesse. Bass Riccardo Novaro’s Pharisee was convincing and almost ridiculous in his offended prudishness. Tenor Reinoud van Mechelen interpreted Jesus Christ with a warm and pure voice, bringing to life for Christians and Non-Christians alike the notion that a repentant sinner brings the Lord far greater joy than a a virtuous bigot. It was astonishing to see how such a theoretical subject could be brought to life in the right hands, from the librettist to the composer and the performers. A lovely evening and a wonderful show, that left the soul cleansed and calmed by the sweet sounds, and the mind brimming with questions. And if it were all true?