Grétry’s, “Zémire et Azor” at Salle Cortot

The wicked sisters and the beast sung by Emilien Marion

There is a definite charm to Salle Cortot, a little concert hall designed by Auguste Perret in 1928, which belongs to Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, a private music school which trains 700 International musicians every year. At the gala for their benefactors, I had the chance to listen to a rarely performed opera by André Grétry, based on the story of the Beauty and the Beast.

Benjamin Athanase played the valet Ali with huge acting skills

The work ” Zémire et Azor” is short, 70 mins, and was composed for Louise Elizabeth de la Rochefoucauld, at Château de la Roche Guyon where Grétry had spent some time writing the opera. The little theatre of la Roche Guyon, where it was first performed, is in the process of being restored and there is a fascinating exhibition of Hubert Robert’s garden paintings at the moment.

Four strings musicians “Les Paladins” and a harpsichordist (impeccable Jérôme Correas) carried the opera through with great joy. All the singers were graduates from Ecole Normale de musique and had been selected over a whole year among fourteen candidates by the director Mireille Larroche, founder of la Péniche Opéra who is one of the permanent teachers. Their youth was part of the huge success encountered.

Amelie Tatti had  a very pretty voice to sing Zemire

The project was conceived especially to be performed last June in Normandy at la Roche Guyon where it was created in 1768 and will become a film, describing the process of creation.  Mireille Larroche had already directed it at La Péniche Opéra and in Liège, in Belgium, with the same costumes by Michel Ronvaux which are  exceptionally pretty…

Hubet Jousset, President of Ecole Normale de Musique

Amelie Tatti had a charming voice for the part of Zemire and her “father” Jean- Fernand Setti a powerful one and a great stature. But my favorite was Ali, the valet who was a great athlete as well as a whimsical singer (Benjamin Athanase) and actor. At the end of the show, some puppets manipulated by Damien Schovaërt and Isabelle Irène, added to the drama.

It is wonderful to witness the birth of young talents even in a fairly dry work of music. The Ecole Normale is quite unknown to non musical French circles and yet very famous abroad. If you are interested in sponsoring a musician you can contact the school at mecenat@ecolenormalecortot.com. It is a well worth cause!

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