Viewpoint: Man of the Theater

by F. Paul Driscoll

In Review Luc Bondy hdl 216
Bondy in rehearsal with Victoire DuBois for Ivanov at the Odéon in Paris, 2014
© Thierry Depagne

LUC BONDY, who died of pneumonia in Zurich on November 28, was a stage director whose work combined uncompromising vision and surpassing sensitivity. Bondy spent almost his entire career in Europe, where he directed unforgettable theater and opera productions over the course of four decades. U.S. opera fans are fortunate that some of Bondy’s best work is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Bondy generally favored an almost spartan mise-en-scène that placed the focus on his actors and the story they were telling: his work was often beautiful, but it was never conventionally pretty. Bondy’s elegant, spare 2001 realization of The Turn of the Screw from the Aix Festival is testament to his genius for letting a work speak for itself, and to his sympathetic artistic partnership with conductor Daniel Harding and soprano Mireille Delunsch, who is a memorable Governess.

The Bondy staging of Han- del’s Hercules, recorded at Paris Opera in 2005, is revelatory; Bondy and conductor William Christie established Hercules as a musical-theater work of singular brilliance and passion. Under Bondy’s direction, Joyce DiDonato delivers a landmark performance as the tragic Dejanira; William Shimell and Toby Spence are also first-rate.  

For me, the most valuable of Bondy’s opera productions on film is his standard-setting French-language staging of Verdi’s Don Carlos, which was first seen at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 1996. Antonio Pappano conducts a matchless cast of principals headed by Karita Mattila as Élisabeth de Valois, José van Dam as Philippe, Waltraud Meier as Eboli, Thomas Hampson as Rodrigue and Roberto Alagna, then near the beginning of his international career, in the title role. The performance is visually and dramatically compelling, gloriously sure of purpose and immaculately executed. It is the work of a master.

A full obituary of Bondy is available at www.operanews.comspacer 

Viewpoint Driscoll Signature 815
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