When I was in Reims in 2013 I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Francis Albou about the second act of the opera Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The lecture was held at the Conservatory, not the opera house, but it’s a good thing I asked at the opera house first because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten in. Admission to these talks is free, but they advise making a reservation. This talk was already fully booked when I arrived, but the lady at the opera box office (who later turned out to be Madame Albou, the lecturer’s wife) said that since I had come all this way she would see if she could get me in anyway. So she made a quick phone call, told me how to get to the Conservatory and said I should just mention my name at the entrance and they would let me in. (The Conservatory is at 20, rue Gambetta, seven blocks south of the opera house.)
I often go to lectures in France but don’t always understand every word. In this case I did, because he spoke clearly and gave a well-structured talk. Of course it helped that Mozart’s Don Giovanni is an opera that I know quite well because I have seen it many times in Frankfurt, Paris and Mannheim, among other places.
This is the smaller of the two lecture halls at the Conservatory. It has excellent acoustics and is often used for concerts and recitals. The seating area is steeply rising, as in many university lecture halls, so that everyone has a good view. The back entrance to the hall is on the ground floor of the building and the front entrance is in the basement.
After the talk I introduced myself to M. Albou and congratulated him on his excellent presentation. He gave me this flyer on his next lecture, about the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis (The Emperor of Atlantis) by Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944). Unfortunately I had to tell him I would be nowhere near Reims on the day of his lecture, but I said I knew Ullmann’s opera because I had seen it several times in Frankfurt in 2004.
As I have mentioned in my post Operas at the Bockenheimer Depot, Der Kaiser von Atlantis is an opera that Viktor Ullmann wrote in the 1940s when he was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He was even allowed to rehearse it with imprisoned musicians and singers, but after the dress rehearsal the Nazis banned it because they finally realized that it had a strong anti-war and anti-Nazi message. Ullmann and his librettist Peter Kien were immediately shipped off to Auschwitz, where they were murdered in 1944. One of Ullmann’s fellow prisoners buried the score and the text of the opera. Years later it was dug up, and was first performed in Amsterdam in 1975.
My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2018.
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