Baron François Gérard would be astonished that his vast 1825 painting of The Coronation of Charles X is the inspiration and template for a production in the Sydney Opera House nearly two centuries later. The production had already been the surprise hit of the 2019 Melbourne Season for Opera Australia. The other person who would be even more surprised would be Gioachino Rossini the composer of Il Viaggio a Reims, surprised that the opera was being performed at all. Rossini (1792-1868), the most prolific and successful opera composer of his day, wrote it to mark the coronation of Charles X of France in 1825 (no, not many other people remember that king either). Charles who reigned from 1824-1830, chose to be crowned at Reims, the ancient seat of kings. Rossini intended the opera to have only one outing for that occasion; indeed he immediately pulled it apart and repurposed the arias in other operas.
This Il Viaggo a Reims is a co-production with Amsterdam and Copenhagen; it could not be more inventive and stylish. Musically impressive, it places great demands on the singers which are brilliantly fulfilled. Dramatically incoherent, it depicts important people trying to get to Reims for the coronation. Here it opens in a gallery with famous portraits which come to life with the subjects stepping out of their frames. The production’s climax has a huge frame, gradually peopled, until it becomes a triumphant singing tableau vivant of the coronation painting.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10