Philip Venables

Glowing Reviews for Denis & Katya in Montpellier

6 August 2021 - news

Denis & Katya made its french premiere a few weeks ago in a new french-language version at the Opéra National Montpellier. The production featured soprano Chloé Briot and baritone Elliot Madore, and cellists from the Orchestre National Montpellier. Ted Huffman directed the production, based on the Philadelphia production from 2019, with lights and set by Andrew Liebermann, video by Pierre Martin, sound by Max Hunter and music direction by Tim Anderson. Opéra National Montpellier were co-commissioners of the opera, and these performances were postponed from May because of Covid. Luckily, this meant that the performances in July became part of the Radio France Festival Occitanie, and the opera was later broadcast on France Musique.

Reviews in the french press have been very positive. Here are some excerpts, all machine-translated from french:

“In an hour’s time the work is clear, striking and deeply accessible. […] After 4.48 Pyschosis, a brilliant transposition of Sarah Kane’s phantasmagorical play into opera, and this masterpiece capable of bringing together a large audience of all ages, the Philip Venables/Huffman duo sets the tone for a modern and popular way of making lyrical theatre rich in emotion, far from musical chapels. — Forum Opera

“As with 4.48 Psychosis , Venables and Huffman question the genre of opera and shake up its codes, through a non-linear narration and the desire not to embody the characters on stage. […] The result of a collaborative effort, as Venables reminds us in his note of intent, Denis & Katya renews the experience of 4.48 Psychosis, where text, voices and music merge into a single dramaturgical unit, crossing theatre and the lyrical dimension for the benefit of the subject to be defended and the political message to be put across.— ResMusica

“Yet the drama progresses and the emotion grows. The projected text messages and testimonies are caught in this net of networks. The final video sequences unfold, chilling like an anguish and a snow present to suffocate all expectations. The exchanges, vocal alternations and rhythmic unisons between the singers double the impact of a violent reverberation. The four cellos (Cyrille Tricoire, Sophie Gonzales del Camino, Yannick Callier and Camille Supéra) are in charge of a disconcerting score, as sober at times as it is complexly constructed, exploiting exchange and fusion (with headphones), each with its own character but never illustrative. The rise in power in the last phase crowns this great moment of contemporary writing by Venables.” — Midi Libre

“Finally, in this opera where the two roles are inseparable vocally and scenically, the complicity and osmosis of the two artists is obvious to the eye and to the ear: the timbres respond to each other during the duets, without any shift despite the complex rhythmic writing. The translation of the other soloist’s singing into spoken voice allows the emotions to be conveyed with power: the incomprehension, the discovery of live performance, the chaotic stage movements are transcribed with depth.” — Olyrix

“With calibrated resources, Denis and Katya asserts itself as an undefinable lyrical piece, which opens many avenues for the future of the opera genre.” — Radio France

Music by Philip Venables, tenuous, distressing and organic, mixes the rawness of human timbres […] We emerge from this hour and a quarter of a total show stunned, convinced of having witnessed the birth of a new form, if not of a new era, of opera.— Journal Zibeline

(photo: Marc Ginot)

› tags: 2020/21 Season / Andrew Lieberman / Chloé Briot / Denis & Katya / Elliot Madore / News / Opera & Music Theatre / Opera Orchestre National Montpellier / Press / Reviews / Ted Huffman / Tim Anderson /