Photo: Chris Lee
In mid-June, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra announced that music director Louis Langrée was not renewing his contract and that he would be leaving at the end of the 2023-24 season.
Speculation about the future of the popular maestro was answered recently, when the French Ministry of Culture announced the appointment of Langrée as director of the Opéra Comique de Paris, one of the five national theaters in France. He begins a five-year contract on November 1, 2022.
Speaking on the phone from Paris, Langrée seems exhausted and elated. “This position has a very special resonance for me,” he said. CityBeat. “My parents and I went to public schools and attended a public conservatory. Now that I am 60 years old, I feel it is time to thank my country for all it has helped me achieve. And I want to mentor the next generation of artists.
In an email to his family and close friends this week, Langrée wrote with the usual modesty and dread of the nomination, noting that some of the first operas he conducted were works premiered at the Opéra Comique.
Founded in 1714 during the reign of Louis XIV, the Opéra Comique is one of the oldest theaters in France, along with the Opéra national de Paris and the Comédie Française, but it was only named the national theater supported by the Status as of 2015.
In accordance with protocols of being a state institution, Langrée met with staff members, the French Minister of Culture and, finally, French President Emmanuel Macron.
“It was amazing,” he says. “It was just the two of us in his office and within that half hour he immediately made me feel at ease. His knowledge of the theater and its projects made a deep impression on me.
Langrée notes that the Opéra Comique is often poorly translated (and misunderstood) as a comic opera.
“It’s the intersection of music and oral creation, like American musical theater, Spanish zarzuela and German singspiel,” he says.
Since its foundation, the Opéra Comique has created nearly 3,000 works of this genre, including that of Bizet Carmen, that of Offenbach The Tales of Hoffmann and Debussy Pelléas and Mélisande.
Langrée made her Opéra Comique debut in 2009, directing Fortunio, a lyrical comedy by André Messager. His new role encompasses more than conducting and music supervision – he will oversee a team of artists, administrators and educators.
“It’s a space that I know well and love,” says Langrée. “And they’re a great team.
He recognizes that the theater is often overlooked by visitors, and he would like to change the description of his website as “Paris’ best kept secret”.
“It’s a beautiful building and you will have a more intimate and human experience in this theater,” he says. “The acoustics are ideal and the productions are exciting.”
Langrée places the commissioning of new works and the mentoring of young artists among its main priorities. Since taking charge of the CSO, he has commissioned 33 works, and he says the CSO and the Opéra Comique share a strong sense of tradition that inspires innovation and creativity.
Langrée remains committed to CSO and the Cincinnati community for the remaining three years of her contract. He’s not trying to open up new directions – “I’ll leave that to my successor,” he said. But he is attached to the level of excellence he has achieved and maintains with the CSO.
One inspiration is Charles Simon Favart who is credited with creating the opera-comic form.
“Voltaire said to Favart:” You embellish everything you touch, “says Langrée.
“I hope to be able to embellish my work with CSO over the next three years.
To learn more about the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and upcoming performances, visit cincinnatisymphony.org.
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