Sabine Devieilhe played Serpetta in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera in 2012. She’s back at the Festival d’Aix this year as Beauty in Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Let’s meet the amazing young French coloratura soprano.
What does coming back to Aix mean to you?
It’s very touching to be here! I have great memories of my first time in Aix as part of the Académie. It was my first Festival too so it was a milestone in my burgeoning career. I’m back with more experience. It’s like going back to those years of musical youth and it’s one of those events where you realise how much you love your job.
This year you’re playing Beauty in Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. Can you describe the character in a few words?
Beauty is a very young woman who’s trying to be true to herself despite life’s struggles. Are they embodied by the allegories of Time, Disillusion and Pleasure? In any event, she’s a young woman who strives forth and learns about herself over the course of the story.
How did you approach the role?
Interpreting the score is always an issue when dealing with a baroque piece. When Handel composed this oratorio, composers worked on the principle that performers already knew a certain number of musical traditions so less music was written and there were fewer annotations. Librettists also worked on the principle that artists and audiences know the codes which makes exploring a character like this one a bit tricky for us 21st century performers. I was definitely the least prepared at the first rehearsal! I naturally had lots of wishes and expectations but the character had to be carved out with the director.
Let’s talk about him! This is your first time working with Krzysztof Warlikowski. How’s it going?
It’s very intense. I’ve never worked so hard! Krzysztof Warlikowski is very generous. We really carved this young woman out of what I was and especially what he felt I could be without knowing me. As a “trendy” young singer (laughs), I’ve often had to deal with people who use the character of a young woman that I give off so sometimes we forget to talk about understanding the piece, libretto or role. We were able to explore it in-depth with Warlikowski. He wanted me to feel lighter, to feel the weight of adolescence and an age when nothing’s easy.
Is there something you’ve never done before in this performance?
Beauty is alone in the first part. She’s battling with herself. In the end her enemy is her adolescence. I had to learn to build this darkness without the help of my partners; that’s something I’d never done before.
Had you already met the team before coming to the Festival?
I knew Franco Fagioli by name and really admired his work. Handel runs through his veins and he brings Italian intensity to the role of Pleasure. I knew Sara Mingardo from albums, her tone makes you feel good! When she sings people often say: “it’s like cream, it’s wonderful.” I saw Michael Spyres and Emmanuelle Haïm a few months ago when we performed Mithridate at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and we get on very well. We’re like a big family. We’re all very happy together.
Have you got any favourite restaurants in Aix to recommend to festivalgoers?
Vintrépide : 48 Rue du Puits Neuf - 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Yoji : 7 Avenue Victor Hugo – 13100 Aix-en-Provence
60 Degrés Tisanerie Moderne : 6 Rue Paul Bert – 13100 Aix-en-Provence
Interview by Saskia de Ville on June 16th, 2016