IS THIS THE END ? A Pop Requiem by Jean-Luc Fafchamps.
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Sarah Defrise (The Teenager) (soprano)
Amaury Massion (The Man) (pop-voice)
Albane Carrère (The Woman) (mezzo-soprano)
Choir and Symphonic Orchestra of DE MUNT Theatre
Conductor: Ouri Bronchti
Regie: Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski
TV productie: Jean-Claude Wouters
A requiem for the opera, nothing is more topical than this world creation that took place online via Arte Concert on 26 September 2020. Is this opera in the new form with which we will have to learn to live as long as we do not get the coronavirus under control?
The fact that a richly subsidised opera company opted for a pop requiem shows little respect for the classical opera idiom and even less good taste. The work is dedicated to Patrick Davin who died during rehearsals. A great loss to the Belgian musical world, as it lost their best Belgian conductor.
The requiem begins with an empty auditorium of De Munt and the steel fire screen that separates the stage from the auditorium with a loud bang. An ominous sound that would suit a disaster film, dominates the first minutes of the work. The music of Fafchamps is certainly pleasing to the ear and is also sung excellently.
The soprano Sarah Defrise incarnates a teenager who has to sing rather hysterically and with many high notes. She does this excellently, with a well-controlled voice and a particularly youthful and clear timbre. The mezzo-soprano Albane Carrère also manages to charm in the more modest role of The Woman. Amaury Massion, however, is unfortunately hard to listen to: an unattractive voice, unpleasant in sound and recitation.
Initially, not much of the singers can be seen, because the image is dominated by video recordings of a young female wandering without purpose through the wings, cellars and other remote areas of De Munt. Chaotic, as is the approach to the corona crisis itself, in which everything is neatly kept in figures, graphs and statistics: apparently under control, but in practice an uncoordinated whole, a global chaos.
Sartre is more topical than ever: “L’enfer, c’est les Autres” (Hell, that’s the Others). Every stranger is by definition a suspicious individual for whom you have to protect yourself with a mouth mask. If the environment gets a little too crowded, it feels like you are one of the too many rats in a cage that is too small.
But life goes on and to emphasise this, the requiem, which lasts just 53 minutes, is interrupted three times by commercials. In the style of the trio in Trouble in Tahiti by Bernstein, a sextet praises products to protect you against corona in the most carefree way: “Ask God – Best Offer”, “Try Death – Good Prices” and “Love & Orgasm – 7th heaven guarantee”.
Such a bitter mockery will not please everyone, but we could live with it. Since Auschwitz, everyone knows that God does not listen to man, and moreover… isn’t COVID19 also one of His little creatures?
The last part of the requiem is purely in concert form, a relief after the messy video sequences. The requiem does not end with the usual liturgical “Amen”, but with a more realistic and extremely adequate expression for the period in which we live: “What the fuck!