Drums and trumpets, please! From a dark year that has dragged like a decade, the Paris Opéra roars back with the world premiere of Marc-André Dalbavie’s great adventure, Le Soulier de Satin (The Satin Slipper), set to a libretto by Raphaèle Fleury after the play by Paul Claudel (1868–1955). Bathed in a glow of Roman Catholic mysticism, Claudel’s scenario poses the question: Can unconsummated passion light the way to salvation? The epic action unfurls amid the discoveries and conquests of Spain’s Golden Age, as the 16th century bleeds into the 17th, occasionally even spiraling to the heavens. Deeds of derring-do jostle low comedy. Joseph Ratzinger—Pope Benedict XVI to you—is said to be a big fan.
Nominated six times for the Nobel Prize, Claudel had a long-running day job as a French diplomat, serving in posts from New York to Shanghai, Prague to Rio de Janeiro. He published his magnum (correction: maximum) opus in 1929, with faint hope of ever seeing it performed by actors of flesh and blood. Yet in a handful of productions beginning in the 1940s, Le Soulier de Satin has proved a sensation. The full monty clocks in at 12 hours. Dalbavie has whittled the running time down to seven, which still out-Wagners Wagner.