How to make classical music fun without dumbing down! Paris en fête,with François-Xavier Roth conducting Les Siècles at the Philharmonie de Paris this week, broadcast live HERE. Proof that "education" without genuine excellence is counter-productive. This should be compulsory viewing for bureaucrats and audiences who think culture must be forced down grimly like it were poison. Please read my article End the Missionary Position in Classical Music ! This concert was so good that I've listened several times over; presumably many in the audience want more, too. Roth is a wonderful communicator, whose enthusiasm inspires because he believes in what he does: he doesn't play games and doesn't ever dumb down.
Carmen, first. But "Who is Carmen?" asks Antoine Pecqeuer, another born communicator who doesn't need hype to do what he does. Carmen is popular the world over because she's a personality. Carmen lives forever: self centred Don Josés will never understand. Thus the essence of what opera should be: human emotions in universal, infinite variety. Which is why small minds do get art. As Pecqeuer reminded us, Carmen bombed at its premiere because it was ahead of its time. Isabelle Druet talks about Carmen so unaffectedly that the Habanera seems an extension of the personality. Part of the fun, too, is that the Choeur des Grand Ecoles is bigger than you'd ever get on an opera stage.
Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Délibes, Berlioz, Offenbach, a programme of pieces familiar to French audience but with a twist to show that French repertoire is not parochial - the Bachannale from Samson et Delila. Pecqeuer talks about French tradition, from Lully to Boulez, and Roth expands. Dance is the foundation for rhythm, structure and inventiveness. Thus, Un bal from the Symphonie fantastique. From Berlioz, instrumental experiments and sophisticated colour. "What does Paris mean to you?", Pecqeuer asks the audience, many of whom are young children. "Le pain" says one, totally matter of fact. Then, the overture from La vie Parisienne, and the Infernal Gallop from Orphée aux Enfers. By now the audience are really getting into the spirit. The Infernal Gallop, "the can can", yet again, this time with the audience singing along, Roth speeding up the tempi. Everyone's exhilarated, high on the thrill. Is classical music elitist or dull? No way! Those at this concert will come away feeling that music is a vital part of life.