Luisa Miller (1849) based on a play by Friedrich von Schiller, Intrigue and Love (Kabale und Liebe, 1784), which was notably performed in 1995 at the Comédie-Française in a very intense show by Marcel Bluwal. The work explores the tyranny of the fathers to the point of tragedy, announcing other operas by the composer, including Rigoletto (1851), traviata (1853) or don carlo, also after Schiller, (1867). Director of the Erfurt Opera in Germany since 2002, Guy Montavon staged in 2016 a Medea by Luigi Cherubini particularly striking at the Opéra de Nice and, last season, an exciting Manon Lescaut by Puccini at the Monte-Carlo Opera. His view of Luisa Miller that we will discover in Nantes was created on May 22, 2022 at the Théâtre d’Erfurt before being represented in Angers on March 10 and at the Opéra de Rennes between March 19 and 25, 2023.
“It’s a work where the weight of convention destroys youth, as in Romeo and Juliet. »
Fragil: What does it mean to you Luisa Miller And what particularly touches you in this opera?
Guy Montavon : I am above all sensitive to the conflict of generations. This opera finds its source in a play by Schiller, a revolutionary writer in a society in full disintegration. Both fathers, whether Miller or Count Walter, are stupid and completely overwhelmed by the situation of a young couple who are just waiting to create a common future without succeeding. It is a work where the weight of conventions destroys youth, as in Romeo and Juliet, with a very strong political message denouncing the ruling class. The costumes of Eric Chevalier, also signatory of the scenography, illustrate this social symbolism, icy blue for Walter and in warmer colors for Miller. From a musical point of view, the duets between these two basses are however of an incredible force, with extraordinary moments of warning. The opera ends with a brilliant explosion of transcendence towards infinity.
“Verdi’s musical maturation begins with Luisa Miller. »
Fragil: How does this opera resonate with other works by Verdi?
Guy Montavon : This is an early work, very closely preceding his famous trilogy made up of Rigoletto, The find And La Traviata, where the composer sets up a musical structure which will then impose itself. He thus moves away from bel canto* to enter into a more personal discourse with in particular the use of solo instruments. Verdi’s musical maturation begins with Luisa Millerwhich already shows all his genius and the musical landscape he is inventing.
* the beautiful song
Fragil: How would you present your staging and the scenography of the show?
Guy Montavon : We built with Eric Chevalier a theatrical stage in wood, with mobile panels from courtyard to garden showing the changes of spaces and the variations of atmospheres. At the forefront, we place two armchairs where the fathers will sit, watching the show…
Fragil: How do you envision working with Pietro Mianiti, the conductor?
Guy Montavon : I am a musician myself and I have no problem talking to conductors. We will certainly retire with Pietro Mianiti to create together on the piano tempos in harmony with the scenic actions*. I love discovering new personalities at each show.
*The interview was conducted on February 24, 2023, before the start of rehearsals.
“I chose to age and make Countess Frederica ugly. »
Fragil: What are your priorities for directing actors?
Guy Montavon : This is an empirical drama where the gestures are very precise, especially during the duet between Walter and his son. Apart from the symbolic dimension of the costumes, I will attach myself to the gestures, to the play with the hands, to the significant attitudes and to the glances to characterize the characters. I chose to age and make Countess Frederica uglyin order to make it clear why Rodolphe chooses Luisa, when the other was intended for him.
“…that children’s birthday party where Medea was about to cut a chocolate cake, holding a kitchen knife in her hand. »
Fragil: You rode in Nice Medea by Cherubini with Nicola Beller-Carbone, memorable Tosca in Nantes in 2008. What traces has this show left on you?
Guy Montavon : This work is not represented enough whereas it puts moods in music in an overwhelming and sometimes futuristic way for the time of its creation. The score amazes me and the drama turns out to be fascinating to transpose, because it is universal like any Greek tragedy. One of the moments that remains for me the strongest is this children’s birthday party where Medea was about to cut a chocolate cake, holding a kitchen knife in her handthe nanny remaining in the background…
Fragil: What memories do you have of your vision of Manon Lescaut by Puccini at the Monte-Carlo Opera, with the immense Anna Netrebko in the title role?
Guy Montavon : I had created this show in Erfurt, and the idea of considering Géronte as the main character, by suggesting a sublimation of love through the work of art, fascinated me. I chose to separate the two lovers by a pane of glass in the last act. Anna Netrebko was skeptical at first, but then she loved playing in this space we had invented. At the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the musical wonder was total thanks to an exceptional cast and the inspired direction of Pinchas Steinberg.
“I succeeded in bringing modern music into the bourgeois salons of Erfurt. »
Fragil: What are you most proud of at the head of the Erfurt Opera?
Guy Montavon : I succeeded in bringing modern music into the bourgeois salons of Erfurt. Spectators are now used to seeing something else, showing interest in world creations, such as Eleni by Nestor Taylor in December 2022, or by unusual works, such as The Siege of Corinth by Rossini, which we have presented in its French version. The public follows me and this house is now a place of reference in Germany.
Fragil: What ideal do you seek to achieve with each staging?
Guy Montavon : Above all, I like to tell a story by keeping the audience awake, from beginning to end, while touching them in the heart and giving them the breath they need in their daily lives.
“Luisa Miller” at Angers Nantes Opéra: Meeting with the director Guy Montavon – Fragil – Culture, society, citizens’ initiatives