— At the Festival

Published on July 16 2019

CHRISTOPHE HONORÉ, FROM THE IDOL TO THE DIVA

Tosca de Puccini – mise en scène Christophe Honoré – direction musicale Daniele Rustioni – Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2019 © Jean Louis Fernandez
© Jean Louis Fernandez

TIME LOST AND REGAINED

In September 2018, Christophe Honoré directed Les Idoles (Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne), freely evoking the generation who preceded him; who taught, nourished and inspired him; who were at the origin of his desires as a man and as a creator; but who were struck down by AIDS before he could meet them. This impossibility to pass down the artistic torch and the frustration in not being able to express his admiration were remedied through the artifice of theater, which short-circuits eras. In the middle of the production, Honoré’s voice, emerging from a loud-speaker, paid homage, simply and poignantly, to Jacques Demy (played by Marlène Saldana), who answered back with a few steps of tap dancing on music from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The vitality of this dialogue with the dead—for whom the motto could have been, “I lived on art and sex”—exhilarated us, the living.

“I have lived on art and love.” This time, his Tosca (Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, 2019) shows a retiring diva (Catherine Malfitano) who is preparing for a final tribute, and finds herself grappling with the ghosts of all the roles she has ever played; her apartment, a trophy case for her past glories, has become her mausoleum; but before retreating permanently, she enthrones her successor (Angel Blue) by teaching her the secrets and pitfalls of the business, and by revealing her own self as a singer and as a woman. A voice disappears; a voice is renewed. Mirroring this exchange, the opera-lover—also threatened by the weight of his or her memories—is invited to overcome the deadly nature of his or her fetiches and retain only those which fuel live art, the art of presence—art in which only silenced voices carry on.

With themes like the demystification and remonetization of the object of adoration (the idol and the diva); intermittencies of the heart and the all-powerful wanderings of memory; and grief for lost time, albeit regained through a beautiful artistic metaphor, it is hardly surprising to learn that Christophe Honoré’s next artistic project will be devoted to the writings of Proust (Du côté de Guermantes, Comédie-Française, 2020), whose themes and quandaries also innervate his film Chambre 212 (2019).

Timothée Picard