Robert le diable


Meyerbeer Robert le diable opera to a libretto written by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne. Directed 2012 by Laurence Pelly at the Royal Opera House. Stars Bryan Hymel (Robert), John Relyea (Bertram), Marina Poplavskaya (Alice), Patrizia Ciofi (Isabelle), Jean-François Borras (Raimbaut), Nicolas Courjal (Alberti), David Butt Philip (First Chevalier/Master of Ceremonies), Pablo Bemsch (Second Chevalier/Herald), Ashley Riches (Third Chevalier/Prince of Grenada), Jihoon Kim (Fourth Chevalier/Priest), and Dušica Bijelić (Lady-in-Waiting). Daniel Oren conducts the Orchestra (Concert Master Peter Manning) and Chorus of the Royal Opera House (Chorus Director Ronato Balsadonna). Set designs by Chantal Thomas; costumes by Laurent Pelly and Jean-Jacques Delmotte; lighting by Duane Schuler; choreography by Lionel Hoche; video design by Claudio Cavallari; directed for the screen by Sue Judd.  Released 2013, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Richard Fairman in the Awards 2013 issue of Gramophone (page 106) roughs up this title for gaudy design stating, "Chantal Thomas's eye-poppingly bright sets take us to a medieval Toytown, peopled by damsels sporting oversized conical headdresses and multicolored horses." He also questions the directing as follows: "As a touchstone, try the famed ballet of the ghostly nuns. Here, this becomes a modernist piece of groping and writhing, and why do the nuns keep sticking their tongues out? Was that their verdict on the production?"

Mark Mandel in the December 2013 Opera News (page 71) disagrees. He says both the simplistic plot and the "grand-opera trappings" of the original libretto require today numerous cuts and a camp humor approach. Mandel also notes that "For a production bedeviled by cast changes, the singers excel."

With the experts divided, let's turn to the 12 good and true members of the L'OperaDou Jury, who saw this Robert le Diable in September, 2013. The Jury panel is drawn mostly from French natives who live around Nîmes with an admixture of Brits and other tounges. The Jury is usually conservative and picky, but they went (to use a camp expression) bananas over Robert and gave it an "A+" grade. The general view seems to be summed up by this statement from the Jury foreman: "A superb piece of operatic theatre from every point of view. Magnificent staging with daring that completely transports the audience. For me, this was the discovery of an opera which is worthy of comparison with the finest Italian opera and yet preserves a very characteristic French touch very close to that of the great Offenbach." H'm. Could it be hard to find in Nîmes a perfectly unbiased jury for Robert le Diable (sung in French). Well, I wasn't there, so I can't overrule the verdict. But you might want to take it, not with a grain of salt, but with a dollop of French mustard.