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Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Cornish Opera Theater: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, detail. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Poster design courtesy of Cornish Opera Theater. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Cornish Opera Theater: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Cornish Opera Theater: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Cornish Opera Theater: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Cornish Opera Theater: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

Molière-Lully Opera at the Playhouse

: Cornish Opera Theater: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Photo by Michelle Smith Lewis.

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OPENING NIGHT! Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme featured music by Lully!? Grab the rare chance to see the work as was intended.

They were a baroque “dream team” according to Stephen Stubbs, musical director: dramatist Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) and musician/dancer Jean-Baptiste Lully. Brought together with choreographer Pierre Beauchamp in the French court by Louis XIV, they pioneered the comédie-ballet, a form of early opera characterized by an integral mix of theater and music, that is, where the music and dance were not just interludes but part of the action. Prominently included in these was Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, which was first presented October 14, 1670 at Louis’ chateau at Chambord. Three hundred and forty-three years later, nearly to the day, the Cornish Opera Theater will open Le Bourgeios Gentilhomme at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center — on October 18, 2013.

More information on Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

Molière’s part of the comédie-ballet is performed often enough as a stand-alone play, but a full production that includes Lully’s music presents a rare, not-to-be-missed opportunity for opera and theater buffs alike. Added as extra spice to this is a reconstruction of the original choreography by Beauchamp by baroque dance expert, choreographer Anna Mansbridge. In addition to Stubbs and Mansbridge, the production is under the direction of Makaela Pollock. Stubbs reports that Makaela Pollock’s concept for the production sets it in the 1960s psychedelic period, most appropriate, given the over-the-top use of color and pattern in the ‘60s, which mirrors that of the baroque period. No doubt the contemporary sense of the absurd will also serve the play’s style well. The opera is performed in English with musical selections sung in the original French.

The Cornish Opera Theater describes the plot of the work in this way. “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme pokes fun at the pretensions of the newly and grotesquely rich Monsieur Jourdain, as fresh a source of humor and discomfort today as it was when Molière penned the lines in 1670.”

Stephen Stubbs, who is a renowned baroque music specialist, elaborates: “From this one decade from 1660-1670, Molière and Lully, as the two leading lights of Louis XIV’s young court were working together, sort of a magic marriage of high-level theatrical work from Molière and really high-level musical and ballet work from Lully, because Lully was not only a writer of music, he was also an accomplished dancer and wrote the ballets knowing how he wanted the ballets to go as well as the music.”

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme comes as part of a concerted effort to offer the public operatic works they might not otherwise see. “This comes as the third such project we’ve done at Cornish,” says Stephen Stubbs. “I mean a baroque opera. The first one we did was an Italian work of the 17th century by Francesca Cacini called Ruggiero [La liberazione di Ruggiero] by Francesca Caccini and last year we did Blow’s Venus and Adonis, so we had an Italian work, we’d done an English work, and Kent [Devereaux, chair of musi]was very interested in the idea of having a French one this year. The rotation has educational value and it means that Cornish can shine the spotlight on a certain culture for a particular season.”

Anna Mansbridge is a dance teacher who lives in the Cornish’s music department, because of the importance of period movement to the music of the time. “Pierre Beauchamp was the choreographer in the court of Louis XIV,” she clarifies. Beauchamp, she reports, left intricate diagrams of his choreography. Mansbridge is using these in her reconstruction.

Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme plays two performances only, October 18 and 19 at 8:00 p.m.


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