Kulturkompasset | critics of culture events

PEER GYNT – SPECTACULAR, EXTRAORDINARY and RENEWED at Grand Palais


Hervé Pierre and Catherine Samie as Peer Gynt and his mother Åse. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand

PARIS: COMÉDIE FRANCAISE is presenting Peer Gynt – with the outstanding actor  Hervé Pierre in the titelrole, – written by Henrik Ibsen, in a translation by Francoise Regnault at Salon d´Honneur at Grand Palais.  

Review by Henning Høholt. Photos:  Brigitte Enguérand.

All photos from the programme of Comédie Francaise.

In the setting and scenography by Éric Ruf it has become a spectacular, extraordinary good and renewed version of Peer Gynt with Hervé Pierre, vitale and brilliant in the titelrole – a real marathon. With wonderful spectacular costumes by Christian Lacroix.

Performances until 14 june 2012
 
Peer Gynt is the son of the once highly regarded Jon Gynt. Jon Gynt spent all his money on feasting and living lavishly, until there was nothing left; thus, Jon had to go from his farm as a wandering salesman, leaving his wife and son behind in debt. Åse, the mother, wished to raise her son to restore the lost fortune of his father, but Peer is soon to be considered useless. He is a poet and a braggart, not unlike the Norwegian youngest son from the fairy tales, the “Ash Lad”, (in Norwegian Askeladden) with whom he shares some characteristics.

As the play opens, Peer gives an account of a reindeer hunt that went awry, a famous theatrical scene generally known as “the Buckride.” His mother Åse, beautifully performed by Catherine Samie, scorns him for his vivid imagination, and taunts him because he spoiled his chances with Ingrid, the daughter of the richest farmer. Peer goes straight to Ingrid’s wedding, scheduled for the following day, because he may still get a chance with the bride. His mother follows quickly to stop him from shaming himself completely.

Ready for the wedding. In the middle the bride, Ingrid,- Adeline d´Hermy. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand

In the French presentation it is told that Peer Gynt, a twenty year old peasant, is promised to Solveig, which, unfortunately, is rather anonyme played by Suliane Brahim, but it is not like that. At the wedding, Peer is taunted and laughed at by the other guests, especially the local blacksmith, Aslak, Bakary Sangaré, who holds a grudge after an earlier brawl. But in the same wedding, Peer meets a family of Haugean (a religiouse Norwegian sect) newcomers from another valley. He instantly notices the daughter, Solveig, that he see for the first time, and therefore not is promised to, and Peer asks her to dance. She refuses because of her father and because Peer’s reputation has preceded him. She leaves, and Peer starts drinking.

When he hears that the bride has locked herself in, he seizes the opportunity and runs away with the bride, (Ingrid)  – well performed by Adeline d´Hermy, and spends the night with her in the mountains. During his getaway, he meets the Three amorous Dairy Maids who are waiting to be courted by trolls (a folklore motif from Gudbrandsdalen). Peer becomes highly intoxicated with them and spends the next day alone suffering from a hangover. He runs head-first into a rock and swoons, and the rest of the second act takes place in Peer’s dreams.

Hervé Pierre and Florence Viala as Peer Gynt and The women in Green - daughter of the Mountain King. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand

He comes across The Woman in Green, in an outstanding performance by Florence Viala, who turns out to be the daughter of the King of the Trolls in the Dovre mountains, brilliantly played by Serge Bagdassarian.  Who also are singing and performing Monsieur Ballon and an evnuque.  and unsuccessfully taking on the motto be true to yourself-ish.

Together they ride into the mountain hall, and the troll king gives Peer the opportunity to become a troll if Peer would marry his daughter. Peer agrees to a number of conditions, but declines in the end. He is then confronted with the fact that the green-clad woman is with child. Peer denies this; he claims not to have touched her, but the wise troll king replies that he begat the child in his head. Crucial for the plot and understanding of the play is the question asked by the troll king: What is the difference between troll and man? The answer given by the Old Man of the Mountain is: “Out there, where sky shines, humans say: ‘To thyself be true.’ In here, trolls say: ‘Be true to yourself and to hell with the world.'” Egoism is a typical trait of the trolls in this play. From then on, Peer uses this as his motto, always proclaiming that he is himself, whatever that is.

Hervé Pierre - Peer Gynt and Left Suliane Brahim as Solveig. Photo: Brigitte Enguérand

Peer comes out of his dream. As an outlaw, Peer struggles to build his own cottage in the hills. Solveig turns up and insists on living with him. She has made her choice, she says, and there will be no return for her. Peer is delighted and welcomes her, but as she enters the cabin, an elderly woman in a green dress appears with a limping boy at her side. This is the green-clad woman from the mountain hall. She has cursed him by forcing him to remember her, and all his previous sins, when facing Solveig. Peer hears a ghostly voice saying, “Go roundabout, Peer”, and decides to leave.

Solveig, left- Suliane Brahim, together with her parents, Gilles David and Catherine Salviat and her sister Helga, Émilie Prevosteau. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand.He tells Solveig he has something heavy to fetch. He continues on his travels and comes back to his mother, Åse – who is dying, (Catherine Samie), she has had the opening replique of the play“Peer you are lying”, and she did this role so outstanding – Who in her part is close to the Norwegian tradition of performing this great role, in the way that the famouse  primadonnas at the Nationaltheatre in Oslo, Wenche Foss, and Johanne Dybwad, which was the first one in that role. However. In that part I was missing the original music by Edvard Grieg, the way it was done here in Paris was not having the same dignity as I am used to, still that they tried with effects, choire and candlelights. Usually this is one of the very highlights in Peer Gynt. Furthermore it is the ending of the first part. (End of Act Three). – and then Peer sets off overseas

Serge Bagdassarian in the centre, surrounded by pictoresque actors in Peer Gynt. Costumes by Christian Lacroix. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand.

We rejoin Peer Gynt twenty years later on the coast of Morocco in Africa, and at that time Hervé Pierre is looking perfect for the role, where he has become a wealthy slave merchant living in debauchery. He tries to seduce Anitra, also played by Florence Viala, the chieftain’s daughter, but she gets away, and leaves him. He is a whimsical dreamer and poet, in the course of this epic and fantastical journey, wher he meets foreign gentlemens, who usually are speaking in their own international language, which underlines their dressing, but this detail Éric Ruf  has no underlined, and the communication part with the four foreign gentlemans is therefore loosing some of its usually international effect. The still young man Peer Gynt crosses the path of a host of characters, each of whom in his or her own way raises the question of identity: “What does it mean to be oneself?” Finally, on his way home as an old man, he is shipwrecked. Among those on board, he meets the Strange Passenger, who wants to make use of Peer’s corpse to find out where dreams have their origin.This passenger scares Peer out of his wits.

The four foreign Gentlemen that Peer meets in Morocco, From left Michel Favory, Éric Gènovèse, Nâzim Boudjenah, Stéphane Varupenne. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand.

He lands on shore bereft of all of his possessions, a pitiful and grumpy old man. Back home in Norway, Peer Gynt attends a peasant funeral, and an auction, where he offers for sale everything from his earlier life. The auction takes place at the very farm where the wedding once was held. Peer stumbles along, and is confronted with all that he did not do, his unsung songs, his unmade works, his unwept tears, and his questions that were never asked. Peer escapes and is confronted with the Button-molder, very good formed by Stéphane Varupenne, who maintains that Peer’s soul must be melted down with other faulty goods unless he can explain when and where in life he has been “himself.” Peer protests. He has been only that, and nothing else.

By turns an outsider, capitalist and prophet, Peer Gynt crosses through eras and societies before understanding, when back in Norway, he has become an old man, where people in the streets are speaking about him, and they dont recognize him, with an onion in his hand, the emptiness of life.

One of the most interesting characters is the Bøyg; a creature who has no real description. Invisibel, that we only hear through the loudspeakers. On the question “Who are you?” The Bøyg answers, “myself.” In time, Peer also takes the Bøyg’s important saying as a motto: “Go around.” The rest of his life, he “beats around the bush” instead of facing himself or the truth

First road: Julien Romeland, Romain Dutheil, Éric Génovése, Jérémy Lopez, Samuel Roger, second road: Vincent Leterme, Hervé Legeay, Bakary Sangaré, Stéphane Varupenne. Photo: Brigitte Enguérand.

The Button molder comes along and says that Peer has to come up with something if he is not to be melted down. Peer looks for a priest to confess his sins, and a character named the Lean One,  Éric Genovese, (who is the Devil), turns up. He believes Peer cannot be accounted a real sinner who can be sent to hell. He has not done anything serious. Peer despairs in the end, understanding that his life is forfeited. He understands he is nothing. But at the same moment, Solveig starts to sing — the cabin he himself built, is close at hand, but he dares not enter. The Bøyg in him tells him “around.” The molder shows up and demands a list of sins, but Peer has none to give, unless Solveig can vouch for him. Then he breaks through to her, asking her for his sins. But she answers: “You have not sinned at all, my dearest boy.” Peer does not understand — he believes himself lost.

Behind the corner, the button-molder, Stéphane Varupenne, who is sent by God, still waits, with the words: “Peer, we shall meet at the last cross-roads, and then we shall see if. .. I’ll say no more.”

Other actors in different roles on Peers way is the great Bakary Sangaré in several different roles. Gilles David is seriousely present also in many rols such as the Father of Solveig, the Captain and other. Michel Favory is the unknown passenger, Von Eberkopf. Catherine Salviat as the other of Solveig, and Claude Mathieuas Kari.

Left Suliane Brahim as Solveig, and Émilie Prevosteau as her sister Helga. Photo: Brigitte Enguérand

Serge Bagdassarian and Florence Viala as The Mountain King and his daughter The Women in Green. Photo: Brigitte Enguérand

Furthermore, in the very long role list, we are enjoying the Comedie students from Comédie Francaise: Romain Dutheil, Cécilie Morelle, Émilie Prevosteau, who also is playing Helga, the sister of Solveig, Samuel Roger and Julien Romelard. Without their active cooperation and filling many roles this production would not have been the same.

Still that Peer Gynt was originally made as a close cooperation between the composer Edvard Grieg, which music is an importent part of the piece. The musically part was interesting and sounded very well, and was following up the intentions by Éric Ruf, and it that way suited the production. Composed by Vincent Leterme, who has formed it well, it sounded a bit gipsy inspired to me some times, and that is not negative. Only in the Hall of the Mountain Kings he has enclosed first a transformed line of the original Mountain music, and then closely up to that shortly introducing Anitras Dance, very deliciouse done, and only catched by the audience who knows this piece and also the musical details by heart. The music was well performed and in many scenes included on stage by the brilliant violinist Floriane Bonnani, Hervé Legeay on guitars, Vincent Leterme, piano and Francoise Rivallandcybalum and percussion. In addition a Trombone player, without name on the list.

Ready for the Funeral of Mother Åse. Photo: Brigitte Enguérand

During the restauration of Comedie Francaise the theatre house is using other places to perform. Salon d´Honneur, large 1200m2,  at Grand Palais is renovated for this occassion, and is a well functioning space for this kind of play.

it is a long room with app 48 number of seats per row, 7 rows built up as an amphitheater along the sides of the stage floor plan. With entrance possibilities for the actor from both ends, and from the middle of the room. It looks like a long green nature place, in the one end going in to the mountains, in the other end to other places. Lampposts effectiveness as carriers of essential points of light, like sound isdiscreetly built and follows where each actor is staying on the long stage, so the sound comes from the correct position in relation to the actor, which means that one way to forget that there are a discrete, but certainly necessary in microphoneamplification. A necessary pool is built in conjunction with a bridge, to give Peer the possibility to take a bath with the three amourouse maids, an to other occassions, but this can be covered with a floor, without public notice this.

Henrik Ibsen

 

 

 Peer Gynt, as drawn by Peter Nicolai Arbo

Hervé Pierre and Adeline d´Hermy as Peer Gynt and Ingrid. Photo: Brigitte Enguèrand

Peer Gynt is a five-act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, loosely based on the fairy tale Per Gynt. It is the most widely performed Norwegian play.

Henrik Ibsen wrote Peer Gynt in deliberatedisregard of the limitations that the conventional stagecraft of the 19th century imposed on drama. Its 40 scenes move uninhibitedly in time and space and between consciousness and the unconscious, blending folkloric fantasy and unsentimental realism.

 

PEER GYNT AND HIS WIMEN

Please enjoy our history about PEER GYNT AND HIS WIMEN, written for an examnation at the Institute of Music at the University of Oslo, a part of a Master degree, (in Norwegian language) by Henning Høholt at:

http://www.kulturkompasset.com/2010/12/peer-gynt-og-hans-kvinner/

 

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