Sunday, March 8, 2009

Thaïs: an Alexandrian courtesan in Athens

Strange as it may seem, the new production of Thaïs at the Athens Megaron is not the first ever chance for the Greek audience to enjoy Massenet’s masterpiece.
In recent operatic history (1994) the Greek National Opera had staged a today forgotten production that had not received the best of reviews.

That is not the case though for the new production of the Athens Megaron that opened last night in Athens. A triumph it might not have been but it certainly was a stunningly staged, musically sensitive, vocally inspiring premiere.

Marlis Petersen - Athenians’ sweetheart - as Thaïs,
was once again a unique stage animal, dominating the difficult part of the Alexandrian courtesan and amazing the audience, even if vocally Marlis didn’t always seem at ease. Nothing to worry about, everything was there, the high D’s at the final duet (no high D at “Dis-moi que je suis belle” as per maestro Plasson’s orders – oh! c’mon! it’s tradition maestro!) the pianissimi etc. but that was a Marlis that looked rather stressed and certainly not the vocal miracle I ‘m used to listen to.

Anthony Michaels-Moore was a convincing Athanaël that seemed to be recovering from a cold- audible especially towards the end of Act II and Act III - however his singing was more than decent and a couple of cracks went unnoticed by the audience.

Antonis Koroneos as Nicias sang with the style of a real nobleman but his singing was lacking glow and squillo at the high notes.

Christophoros Stamboglis was a fine Palémon, however his part was violently massacred by maestro Plasson who cut -among others- the whole Scene II of Act III, leaving the audience wondering about Athanaël’
s sudden conversion during Scene III.

Kudos to Irini Kyriakidou (Crobyle) and Angelica Cathariou (Myrtale)
–not Nicias’ servants in this case-
they looked more like Nicias’ groupies
and to Alexandra Papadjakou (Albine)
and Vassiliki Karayanni as a spectacular Charmeuse.


* The wonderful sets by Nikos Petropoulos, costumes by Carla Ricotti, lighting by Vinicio Cheli

* Arnaud Bernard’s idea to set
Thaïs in the 30’s and present her as a famous actress of silent films

* Maestro Plasson and the Orchestra of Colours’ round, elegant sound


* The cuts of the score (not only Scene II of Act III)

* Michel Plasson’s tempi

* The Médiation:
a teenage girl dancing in tutu and points was the least inspiring thing one could get for the wonderful intermezzo...


Thais Entrance

Curtain calls:

Next performances:

10, 13, 15 March with Marlis Petersen (
Thaïs)/Anthony Michaels-Moore (Athanaël)

8, 11, 14 March with Elizabeth Futral (
Thaïs) / George Mosley (Athanaël)


mahler76 said...

και έλεγα κι εγώ τι λείπει τί λείπει σε σχέση με το cd...πάντως έμεινα ευχαριστημένος. Ωραίες φωτογραφίες!!!

derwanderer said...

Yes Parsi, 100% yes! I agree with your fair and accurate review. If I may add, I found Marilis VERY covincing in almost everything in her last two tableaux, much less so in the first two. The main problem, IMO, was not vocal but stylistic: Hardly ever did she sound i d i o m a t i c... But even thus,such was the force of her conviction and dramatic instinct in the last two tableaux, that she crushed almost all my objections. A nice opera night indeed. What a pity the balletic treatment of the Meditation, and the public's applause of the ballerina before the final bars! All poetry was gone :-(
The same goes for the excision of the second tableau of act III. I am a big fan of Plasson's, having heard him -with his Toulousains or others- in various occasions, but yesterday he was "au dessous" of his usual standards. I liked the youthfull and very sound conscious performance of the Orchestra of Colours, though.

Anonymous said...

xm.... les i frutal na einai kaliteri?

Parsifal said...

Hmmmm lew oti h Futral 8a einai diaforetikh.

H Marlis einai lighter k h Futral 8a dwsei ton fwnhtiko/dramatiko ogko pou leipei apo thn Petersen, alla oi pshles ths Futral mou shkwnoun thn trixa...

bb said...

Parsifal - thanks again for the great words and photos (and indeed here's a topic that deserves comments on a blog that celebrates great music. Pity we are bothering with such trivial foolishness in other places, I am guilty too). Tonight I found both Marlis Petersen and Anthony Michaels-Moore to be EXCELLENT. The girl with the tutu was really touching to me, so no deductions there.We love the Orchestra - perhaps even more these days. May they becomethe semi-official Megaron Orchestra ;-) One minus - of course, the missing scene. One vocal minus - I'm not telling, but anyone who listened to the applause tonight noticed a very audible dip in that case. One (very minor) minus for the clothes - spectacular but non-flattering costume for the Charmeuse. Absolutely untypical lapse of judgement to my eyes, VERY easy to forgive and forget among all the visual splendor. All in all, again, to my eyes and ears, this WAS a triumph (i.e. a little more impressed than you ;-). Hope you enjoy it with Furtal, too, and thanks again for the fantastic blog.

derwanderer said...

Dear co-buffs, has anyone seen the Futral 8/3 performance of Thais?
Any feedback? Thanks