What is La Vestale worth at the Paris Opera?

What is La Vestale worth at the Paris Opera?
What is La Vestale worth at the Paris Opera?

Just like in The Scarlet Handmaidthe cult dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood… whose influence is perfectly assumed here?

Absolutely. My mother was a great feminist and I remember seeing this book at home as soon as it was published, during the 80s. In the region where I was raised, many Iranian refugees settled after the fall of the Shah in 1979. Intellectuals, doctors, professors… When I read The Scarlet Handmaid, my mother explained to me that it could also reflect what happened in Iran. That it wasn’t fiction. I grew up near Harvard. Telling myself that this university, so intellectually rich, cultivating free thought, could become a place where innocent people were hunted, executed, raped, made me think differently about politics. Furthermore, I like the way in which Margaret Atwood treats her heroine, June, we feel the struggle in her, her intelligence, her multiplicity and who, because of the system in which she is oppressed, finds herself in states of rage. Which is also the case for Julia in The Vestal Virgin : even trapped, she rebels.

There is also a certain form of humor in The Scarlet Handmaidsqueaky, almost disturbing… like in your version of The Vestal Virgin !

Horror and humor come together in Margaret Atwood… irony more precisely. Which I also wanted to infuse into this production, to strengthen its critical impact. It is an opera imagined in a resolutely European framework by Spontini, but I wanted to consider all its possibilities of heterogeneity: summoning all kinds of orthodoxies, the rituals of very oppressive religious or political regimes. An opera must entertain and transport, just as it must encourage us to think, for days on end, about the world around us.

Which characters of The Vestal Virgin affect you the most?

First, the Great Vestal Virgin who, despite her very cruel behavior, repents. She is no less doomed, and this is, in my opinion, one of the great tragedies of this opera… And then there is Julia, played by the soprano Elza van den Heever. This is the third time I’ve worked with her. Elza is not only one of the most exquisite personalities on the opera scene, but also an artist who ignites everything she embodies.

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