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Ahead of the television broadcast of Le Voyage dans la Lune (The Trip to the Moon) by Maîtrise Populaire, the Paris Opéra Comique’s young people’s theatre troupe, we talked to Juliette Chevalier, secretary general of the venerable French institution.
Ms Chevalier, who oversees partnerships with the theatre’s patrons, expressed how important the support of industrial players such as ArianeGroup is to young generations.
Can you tell us about the crowdfunding campaign for “Grandir sur scène” (growing onstage), on the KissKissBankBank platform?
This is the second time we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for Maîtrise Populaire. The aim is to raise money, of course, but also to get a large number of people and companies involved in our project. Grandir sur scene is a program that gives young students multi-disciplinary training and real-life stage experience in a range of productions. Maîtrise Populaire takes students as young as first-year secondary school and works with them until their last year in high school, and sometimes even beyond.
How important is this support for the young Maîtrise Populaire actors, and, overall, for culture today?
Le Voyage dans la Lune is an ambitious project: it’s the first time an opera will be entirely performed by the young Maîtrise troupe. Initially scheduled in 2020, the performance had to be postponed for a year. A lot can happen in a year: the students’ voices change and so does their dress size! In normal times, 70% of our funding comes from theatre patrons. Unfortunately, this year, with the economic crisis, many companies did not renew their partnership. As a result, there is a lot at stake in this campaign.
What does the campaign actually fund?
Our goal is to raise at least €50,000 to finance the students’ return to the stage (training resumed in April). The money will also be used for overall operations. Students do not pay for courses and training. In addition, to ensure the level of excellence we strive for, we employ expert instructors who come from the best French and international art institutions.
Besides the financial aspect, what does ArianeGroup’s support mean to the Maîtrise Populaire youngsters?
Le Voyage dans la Lune tells the story of King Vlan, a monarch on planet Earth, who is can’t wait to hand his kingdom over to his son Caprice. The young prince, however, just recently returned from a world tour, has only one thing on his mind: he wants to go to the Moon. Once he and his friends get there, however, they realize that the Moon dwellers, the Selenites, have no understanding of love or ambition. Until, that is, they partake of Earth’s pleasures such as apples and alcohol…A story set in space: what better patron than ArianeGroup!
Why is it important to train actors from different backgrounds? In your view, does targeting greater inclusivity bring benefits in terms of creativity, dialogue, or any other aspects?
Our experience with the Maîtrise program, which includes students from a huge range of socio-cultural backgrounds, is a raising of standards across the board. Discrepancies in grade levels tend to promptly level out; artistic practices stimulate students and improve their academic results (100% of students passed their baccalaureate since 2016). The combination of school work and artistic training has very positive effects on students’ overall scholastic behaviour: a thirst for learning, increased attention span, and a sense of responsibility.
Do you believe that such an approach is a means to train talent that under other circumstances would not have access to artistic expression on stage?
As part of our yearly March recruitment process, we strive to seek out communities that are less likely to be familiar with the world of opera. We give talks about the Opéra Comique theatre and conduct auditions for future Maîtrise members in REPs and REP+s (French government funded schools in educational priority areas). Besides attracting new recruits, it’s an opportunity for us to teach youngsters about stage performance, the Opéra Comique, its repertoire and the Maîtrise Populaire project. We organize workshops, presentations, performances, and guided tours.
Why did you choose to stage Offenbach’s Le Voyage dans la Lune?
Noted for its majestic sets, effects, and costumes, Le Voyage dans la Lune is a lively work in the opéra féerie genre, inspired by two of Jules Verne’s novels. The plot’s intriguing twists and turns are set against a backdrop of irresistible music, comical and delightful dance routines, catchy, witty melodies, and a throng of colorful characters. It ends with an enchanting earthlit scene. A bright, exuberant opera appreciated by young and old alike, it’s a perfect project for the Maîtrise’s 8- to 25-year-olds.
One last question: Would you say that the Moon and space still inspire people to dream?
Space exploration is part dream and part mystery and yearning, a mixture of science fiction and real, down-to-Earth science. Since time immemorial, space and the Moon have inspired many art forms: novels by Jules Verne, exhibitions at the Grand Palais, operas by Offenbach, and films, most recently Interstellar.
To see the opera adaptation of Le Voyage dans la Lune, directed by Laurent Pelly and performed by the Opéra Comique Maîtrise Populaire troupe, mark the date in your diaries: October 21, 2021 on France 5.