The Musica festival in Strasbourg recycles the stars of the past

Created in Strasbourg in 1983 with the ambition of promoting both creation and the historical milestones of the 20th century, the Musica festival has undergone several changes of direction over four decades

The Musica festival in Strasbourg recycles the stars of the past

Created in Strasbourg in 1983 with the ambition of promoting both creation and the historical milestones of the 20th century, the Musica festival has undergone several changes of direction over four decades. The one operated since 2019 by Stéphane Roth, 42, seems the most radical because it focuses less on the works than on the “listening methods”, as we were able to judge during the opening weekend of the event , which runs through October 1st. A first example of this unifying element of the program was provided on Saturday September 16, in the Hall Grüber of the TNS, by the live and theatrical interpretation of a work by Luciano Berio, A-Ronne (1974), originally conceived for exclusively radio broadcast.

Equipped with headphones, the listener is invited to wander through a barely lit space where the eight singers (HYOID Voices) required for the piece also move. If we do not lend ourselves to the game of individualized listening and prefer to see, and hear through loudspeakers, all like a show, what does this production by A-Ronne look like? by Joris Lacoste? In the hallucinatory rite of a survivalist community. Deployed in the equivalent of an underground shelter, Berio's conceptual hodgepodge really passes for one of those old moons of modernity which have lost their shine and its officiants (performers, listeners) are not far from being the last practitioners of “contemporary” music destined to disappear.

Theater of Hell on video

In this perspective, the discovery of the second poster for September 16, Don Giovanni aux enfers, given as a world premiere at the Opéra du Rhin, will be no less edifying. Simon Steen-Andersen, responsible for all levels of the work – from the libretto to the direction, including the music – is very concerned about the past, but in order to recycle it. A major representative of the New Discipline movement, this 47-year-old Dane is a virtuoso of misguided borrowing. It all begins here with the appearance of the Commander (in Mozart's Don Giovanni with music, costumes and sets "imported" from the 18th century). The miscreant rebels, the earth trembles, electronic wailing fills the room and Don Giovanni (or the actor who plays his role, the very credible Christophe Gay) wakes up on a pallet six feet underground.

What follows is an incredible story where the devil, renamed “Polystophéles” (hypnotic Damien Pass), never stops torturing the new arrival in a dreamlike manner. The video takes control of the action to make the Opéra du Rhin (from the artists' entrance to the dressing rooms) the true theater of hell. As for the musical collage of which Steen-Andersen constitutes the new star, it works rather well in the first part of the show. Faust (Gounod), Macbeth (Verdi), the three Fates (Rameau), the Flying Dutchman (Wagner) mingle with the post-mortem destiny of Don Giovanni in a game of dominoes which also features metal rock, techno and a song of Rosalia. However, an astonishing quintet, the Ictus Ensemble, intervenes during sequences of an originality which, cultivated on a large scale, could have made this sometimes televisual farce into a caustic epic in the style of György's Grand Macabre. Ligeti.

At Musica, the festival-goers also have talent. Stéphane Roth invited those of the first editions to imagine a program. Bernard Pfister, retired dermatologist, proposed a monographic concert by Olivier Greif (1950-2000). Defended, on the morning of the 17th, by the telluric piano of Pascal Amoyel and the ethereal cello of Emmanuelle Bertrand, the War Sonata of this other adept of fertile reminiscence had a great effect in the parish hall of the Münsterhof. Symbol of an exit from purgatory for a composer who had never been programmed at Musica?