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Although deprived of the public since the end of October because of the Covid-19 pandemic, theaters and opera houses are organizing rehearsals and new productions intended to find their spectators on streaming platforms.
In the absence of a live show, living rooms stand. Behind their closed doors, theaters and opera houses have been hosting for several weeks not only artist rehearsals but also real creations. “To exist”, they say.
Deprived of the public since October 30 due to the pandemic, new productions are emerging in front of a small committee of journalists and “cultural professionals” during “premieres”, which often turn out to be the last performance.
At the national theater of the Opéra Comique, Tuesday in Paris, almost normal scenes preceded the live streaming of a new version of “Titon et l’Aurore”, an opera-ballet from 1753: coming and going machinists, technicians, decorators, musicians and masked singers. In the front row, a hedge of cameras for a recording for the Medici.TV platform.
Maintaining activity “is fundamental”
On the set, Basil Twist, American puppeteer and director of the show, savor every moment. “It’s strange but it’s also extraordinary because in the United States there is no show at all, so I feel very lucky to do something,” the artist told AFP. “Of course I’m sad that there is no audience, but (…) I’m from San Francisco and I have a lot of friends who are going to watch the show from there at 11 a.m. morning. It’s very exciting “.
For the director of the Opéra comique, Olivier Mantei, maintaining activity “is fundamental” for the house teams. “They are more afraid that we cease all activity than the opposite. It keeps us awake, alert.”
If the house has managed to control the health risk – no contamination for more than two months despite the presence of more than 100 people daily according to Olivier Mantei – what about the financial risk?
For some productions, “we have incurred costs for a long time, artists … we have help, patronage”, which the Opéra comique doubled in 2020, explains Olivier Mantei. “It costs us the same to do as it does not to do. And we’re very happy to do it.”
“All is not well, it is a fight for life”
For other heads of establishments, it is a question of survival.
“Why do? To exist!”, Affirms to AFP Mathieu Touzet, co-director of the Theater 14, in Paris, which presented a creation, “Kolik”, and is preparing to present another one, “Una madre “.
Having taken up his duties at the beginning of 2020 with Édouard Chapot, he has only known in this Parisian municipal hall the fight against the health crisis. “We were told ‘you can repeat it, everything is fine’. No, all is not well, this is a fight for life,” he said.
“How do we resist? By continuing to create to say that culture will always exist”, assures Mathieu Touzet, who confides his fear of seeing the world of culture plunge “into a slump of one, two, three, four , five years “if the creations stop.
“We must make the productive apparatus of the performing arts survive: artists, authors, actors, scenographers, press officers, intermittents. If this circuit breaks, everything will have to be rebuilt.” But a production, “it’s extremely expensive, it’s a real limit,” recalls the co-director of the theater funded by the City of Paris.
Create “gives meaning to everyone”
Dance is no exception to creations. At the Center Pompidou, Nigerian choreographer Qudus Onikeku created “Re: INCARNATION”. Under the nave of the Grand Palais, Boris Charmatz presented “La Ronde”, duets danced over 12 hours and captured for digital broadcast in March.
For the contemporary choreographer Régine Chopinot, who creates, Thursday, “AD-N” at the MC93 in Bobigny, creating “gives meaning to everyone”, she says. Even in front of a small committee. “The public exists from a moment when there is a person we do not know in the dark,” she says. “It’s delirium what we live. It’s like everyone is fasting and the question is ‘how to get the taste of food again?'”.
And the public in all this? From home, Ondine Simonot, music lover, watches “Titon et l’Aurore” on screen. Streaming, “is better than nothing. But it is only a ‘palliative care’. While waiting for the reopening of the rooms”.