If musicals still have some difficulties attracting audiences in Paris, it seems like "plays with music" are becoming more and more popular. For the last couple of years, the category "Best Musical", at the French Moliere Awards, have been dominated by "plays with music" rather than by book musicals.
Two comedies in which music plays a major role are currently running in Paris. As in Terrence MacNally's Master Class, Allegria, opus 147 and Le Salon D'Ete both use the process of learning and/or teaching music as a theatrical device to share joys and tears, reveal inner fears and traumatic memories and express a situation of domination-submission. Both plays are directed by the playwrights.
In Joel Jouanneau's Allegria, opus 147, the composer Chostakovitch (Francois Chattot) teaches a young viola player (Virginie Michaud) how to perform his sonata for viola and piano. As they go through the three movements, the maestro recalls the painful circumstances in which he wrote his music and the dear ones to whom he has dedicated it.
As announced to the audience before the beginning of the play, Allegria, opus 147 is a work of fiction since the only classes given by Chostakovitch during his lifetime were composition classes. He never taught the practice of any musical instruments.
Le Salon D'Ete is a comedy written and directed by Coline Serreau who also stars in it. Serreau is also a famous filmmaker (her 1985 hit Trois Hommes et Un Couffin even had an American version, Three Men and A Baby) but often writes for the stage between films. Le Salon D'Ete mixes the stories of three vocal quartettes in the beginning, middle and end of our century. The three quartettes have in common to rehearse in the same place (the "salon d'ete", a summer lounge) and they are portrayed by the same four actors (Coline Serreau, Delphine Bibet, Pierre Jacquemont and Simon Bakhouche). Through the process of learning vocal pieces together, these characters will love, leave and hate each other, enjoy little pleasures and experience bigger tragedies.
Le Salon D'Ete was nominated this year for a "Best Musical" Moliere Award.
For tickets and information on Allegria, opus 147 at the Theatre de l'Oeuvre, call 331 44 53 88 88.
For tickets and information on Le Salon D'Ete at the Theatre des Bouffes Parisiens, call 331 42 96 92 42.
-- By Stephane Ly-Cuong