For his new production of Monteverdi's Orfeo, Paul Agnew chose French tenor Cyril Auvity for the title role. A longtime collaborator of Les Arts Florissants, the singer shares his first impressions just after his first work session with the crew.
What was the goal of this first work session?
This was the first time we all got together to work on the show. With opera, things usually happen in two steps: first the music, then the staging. But in this case, since Paul is directing both of these aspects at the same time, we talked not only about the music, but also about the character’s intentions and of his overall view of the opera. Starting work this far in advance* is also a way to allow time for the project to mature in our heads. This happens almost unconsciously, but it allows you to be better prepared when rehearsal begins. That’s the Arts Flo spirit: we take the time we need, to not just do a good job, but to go beyond that, to find that extra something that will make all the difference.
What does the Arts Flo spirit represent for you?
In my view, this spirit resides in the idea that in every project, every work, every role, there’s something new to discover and learn. William Christie and Paul Agnew are people who enjoy sharing their knowledge. When we all share that approach, work becomes quite fun; it can advance quickly and be very exciting. There isn’t just one way: we’re encouraged to explore new paths, even if they head in the wrong direction.
What is it like working with Paul Agnew?
The real difference lies in the trust he has in me and that I can have in him. We’ve known each other a long time now and we’re never short of things to discuss. Paul is someone who chooses his singers and his musicians with an eye to encouraging interaction among the ensemble members – which is not always the case with other conductors. This fosters incredible trust between us and with him: we can propose things, the floor is open. It’s work and it’s demanding, but it’s open.
What are your first impressions of the new production?
The spirit of the troupe will be very strong and will play an important role. In the creation of this particular project, where we’ll have barely two weeks to rehearse an opera, this spirit is essential if the magic is to happen.
What does this role represent for you?
I feel like this is an important moment in my life as a singer. It’s the first time I’m singing this role. Although I’ve sung other roles in this opera, I didn’t expect to be performing Orfeo so quickly, but it makes sense with Paul Agnew’s take on the character and what he wants to do with it. Also, for years I’ve been singing in other works that touch upon the myth of Orpheus – works by Rameau, Charpentier and others. Something in this character moves me. In Monteverdi’s opera, the role requires a great physical, intellectual and theatrical commitment: if you like acting, the palette of emotions is truly rich. And the score itself, a thing of great beauty, with incredible songs… Such a gift! And to do it in this context – my age corresponds, my voice corresponds, it’s with people I know and like – it’s almost like the stars were aligned. It’s an exceptional, and very rare, opportunity.
*Interview led on November 25, 2016