Last Friday I went to listen to my second Parisian concert after coming back.
It was an evening of Haendel opera arias by a quartet of already famous young singers at the Theâtre des Champs Elysées: Sandrine Piau, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Philippe Jaroussky, Topi Lehtipuu and the Concert d'Astrée, all conducted by Emmanuelle Haïm.
I decided to go at the last minute. There were no more seats available in the room. So I bought a €5 seat at the box office. The Theâtre des Champs Elysées is nearly circular. The cheapest seats are literally above the stage in two small dark rooms on the left and right sides of the hall. The audience there can only listen. If one wants to see, one has to bend over the side of the open window and look down on the 10m drop over the stage: not for those who are afraid of heights. This would probably be banned in health-and-safety conscious UK.
My seat was at the back of the room so I was not even tempted to bend over to look at the artists. I had all seen them in the past already anyway. The sound in this small dark listening chamber was a bit muffled but pure. I closed my eyes and listened to the beautiful arias. I did find out I was missing out on something visual as the rest of the room was laughing at some points so although the concert was not staged, something must have been happening on stage.
One good thing with this position overlooking the rest of the audience rather than the stage, is that one can spot the seats left empty. At the intervall, I changed seat for one I had spotted right in the centre of the second balcony. Not only could I now see the stage and the singers, but all the harmonies in the voices suddenly came out much better. The ladies' voices in particular sounded much richer now. The comedy on stage came from singers playing with the height of the music stands between numbers.
A great baroque concert of runs, affects and fun. I went home completely elated on my bicycle, driving through nearly empty streets past the Eiffel Tower, the Champs de Mars and behind Montparnasse back home. I was in such an intellectual high that I hardly noticed it was raining and that I was all wet.
Haendel, Acis and Galatea
William Christie and Les Arts Florissant, Erato