9 mai 2010

Opera ex machina

Operaen - Open doors at the new opera house
Location: Holmen, along the main canal, opposite Amalienborg and Amalienhave
Project by Henning Larsen
Private initiation of A.P. Møller - Mærsk - as gift for the city
Inaugurated in 2005

A place full of contrasts... Especially today with the grey Danish weather!
Outside, the old industrial harbour stillbearing the marks of its metallic past. Inside, the celebration of luxury and refinement. The materials - the marble on the floors, the polished maple pannels on the walls of the great hall, the glass reflecting the water and allowing the view of the panorama on the waterfront, the glass used by Olafur Eliasson for the three great chandeliers - the space and the light create a place where time stops. This suits very well the opera world if you listen to the definition that the operachef Kasper Holten gave at his welcome speech today: "a place where time is flexible, where you can stop and reflect on the great moments and feelings of our human lives that are too complexe or terrible to describe with words...a place where the music and the voices celebrate those moments".

The guided tour took us down to the rehearsal hall, behind the scene, up to the rehearsal artist loges and down again to the foyer. Great technics were described that assure the right acoustic, the feeling of daylight even at -5th floor, the efficient change of coulisses (different masterpieces being produced and performed for a same period) etc. It is a great piece of architecture, no doubt about that.

But I cannot forget the very close resemblance to the music hall of Luzern in Switzerland, done by Jean Nouvel. When you compare, the swiss original one is more convincing, especially in the work done on the great music hall. Much more true to the concept in a way. I also regret that the Danish opera house has such a beautiful front part - facade and foyer space - leaving the administrative and backstages in a very cartesian plan of rooms linked by corridors. When you get to the upper part and deck, the plan opens more outwards again and the rooms breath again. But the small offices and their facade are quite basic. Maybe this unforgiving feeling also comes after the visit of the facing brother : the theatre house. Yes, you find corridors and stairways but somehow they are a part of your journey in the building, they are made interesting by small but decisive details.

But here is a thing I particularly appreciated... the continuity between the floor inside and the stone deck outside.
You ought to know that the opera house has been the seat of quite some polemics also, among which the most strong ones were between the architect and the client!

To talk about the musical experience I can report two very nice concerts of thirty minugtes each: a brass kvintet from the Royal Chapel played some traditionnal pieces of the repertoire - Vagn Holmboe, Victor Ewald, Malcolm Arnold - and a smaller delegation from the Royal Opera choir sang Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer. I am not very used to brass repertoire though the instruments fascinates me: the colour and the son cuivré are delightful, I think. I really enjoyed the whole concert and all the pieces they played today. It was the second time I heard playing some Ewald: I start to get to know more this Russian engineer and composer and I appreciate his work more and more. The last piece was of Malcolm Arnold I believe: very light and joyful, and quite jazzy...

And then the Liebeslieder, well, what else to say that is as beautiful as ever. One of the most known piece of Brahms probably: its harmonious atmosphere must be the reason! The bass singer gave us a funny little anecdote. It is written on the scores that it is a piece for piano with vocal accompaniment "if desired", which means that the choir part that we all know, recognize and hum along, is actually accessory!

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