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WORLD PREMIERE AT THE SZCZECIN' CASTLE OPERA, 28/09-02/10, 2018

Stage Director Damian Cruden
Music Director Laurent Petitgirard
Associate Music Director Jerzy Woloziuk
Hubert Claessens, Guru
Sonia Petrovna, Marie,


"GURU"
AN OPERA COMPOSED BY LAURENT PETITGIRARD
Libretto by Xavier Maurel based on an original idea of the composer
State Commission

OSF Productions Publisher

Recorded for the label Naxos in October 2010 in Budapest, music director Laurent Petitgirard









Opera

Caracters

Guru Baryton
Marie Actress
Victor, Guru’s assistant Tenor
Iris, Guru's wife Soprano lyrique
Carelli (« The scientist  ») Bass
Marthe, Guru's mother Contralto

Les six nouveaux adeptes (Ensemble vocal)

New disciple 1 Soprano
New disciple 2 Mezzo
New disciple 3 Alto
New disciple 4 Tenor
New disciple 5 Baryton
New disciple 6 Bass
Mixed choir The disciples


Duration : 2 hours

Orchestration

3 flutes (2nd picc-3thd picc & G flute)
2 oboe
1 english horn
3 clarinets (3thd mostly bass clarinet)
3 bassoons (3thd contrebassoon)
4 horns
3 trumpets
3 trombones (3thd bass trombone)
1 Tuba
1 Harp
1 Celesta
1 Timpanist
3 percussionists
Strings 14-12-10-8-6 (minimum 12-10-8-6-5)


Cast at the Castle Opera in Szczecin 28/09-02/10/2018

Guru Hubert Claessens /
Marie Sonia Petrovna
Victor Paul Gaugler / Juan Noval-Moro
Iris Bo?ena Bujnicka, Magdalena Marchewka
Carelli

Guillaume Dussau, Janusz Lewandowski

Marthe

Gosha Kowalinska, Ewa Zeuner

Nouvel adepte 1 Lucyna Boguszewska
Nouvel adepte 2 Iga Caban
Nouvel adepte 3 Sandra Klara Januszewska
Nouvel adepte 4

Pawe? Wolski

Nouvel adepte 5 Tomasz ?uczak
Nouvel adepte 6 Rafa? Pawnuk
Mixed Choir Chœur de l'Opéra de Szczecin
Orchestra Orchestre de l'Opéra de Szczecin
Chorus master Ma?gorzata Bornowska
Vocal Master Mari Laurila-Lili
Assistant Conductor Antonina Bana?
Music Director Laurent Petitgirard
Directeur Musical associé Jerzy Woloziuk
Associate Music Director Damian Cruden
Set Designer Jérôme Bourdin
Costume Designer Dominique Louis
Associate Costume Designer Agata Tyszko
Lighting Designer Maciej Igielski

Avec le soutien de la société Investimo et du Fond de Création Lyrique (FCL)




Photos M. Grotowski
Click to enlarge



ForumOpera.com
, September 2018

...............................................................Guru Composer's notes......................................................................

The theme of the opera Guru is psychological manipulation within a sect. The main character, Guru, is a misguided mystic who is charismatic, highly intelligent, seductive, and manipulative. Xavier Maurel and I wanted to represent the life of a man with a heightened sense of sexuality and a very dubious relationship with money and power who rules over a sect of fifty followers living in seclusion on an island.

The opera depicts the descent into madness and death of an anti-hero who forgets that he himself contrived his sect’s rites and rituals and starts to believe that he is truly the “Chosen One”. The Guru is no longer able to face the world around him, and dissention starts to stir among his inner circle. His madness becomes murderous. He loses all sense of reality and leads followers and loved ones into a suicidal vortex.

 

The theatrical portrayal of an apocalyptic sect

Psychological manipulation takes place before our eyes daily. Everyone has been a witness to it; and it comes in varying degrees of dangerousness. It happens in families and in work settings and sects use it as a weapon. Some sects have their roots in religious fundamentalism, others are at play in political, intellectual or artistic spheres, or become veritable financial powers, and others still, referred to as apocalyptic, have been known to call for collective suicide.  Our Guru’s sect belongs in this last category:  the darkest and most dangerous and, for its followers, also the most enticing.

The language of this world of madness is song.

One woman, Marie, recently joined the sect, along with a small group of converts, to prevent the collective suicide. She is the only person who stands up to Guru. She is also the only person who has not succumbed to the madness. Marie does not sing, she speaks. The role is always played by an actress; and because her lines have all been written to be rhythmical, excellent musical skills are required.

The progressive destruction of peoples’ personalities and of their capacity to reason, and the constant ramming of ideas into peoples’ heads are meant to do away with any form of discernment with respect to a guru’s theories, however inane they may be; all of this is compounded by an absolute lack of communication among followers. In a completely single-sided relationship, the words of the guru become the only frame of reference for believers. Songs must only be sung for and to him. In our opera, Guru, music is the crux of the story as well as the instrument for its telling.  Before our very eyes, song becomes the instrument of destruction.  

The other characters are: Iris, Guru’s companion and mother of their child, who dies for lack of medical care; Marthe, Guru’s mother; Victor, his assistant; and Carelli, the ever-present scientific advisor.

The opera culminates in a collective suicide which Marie, despite her many efforts, is unable to prevent and which she alone survives.

An activist and committed opera

Guru’s megalomania, the seclusion in which the sect lives and the horrific collective suicide point to Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple and the tragic death of 918 persons in Jonestown. The theories   that provided us inspiration for our representation of this form of horror are based on the particularly terrifying dimension of the belief in “the journey after bodily death” held by many sects.

Guru is an activist opera with an asserted and clear goal: to speak out against psychological manipulation. My first opera, Joseph Merrick dit Elephant Man (Prague and Nice 2002, Minneapolis 2005), is about social exclusion, depicted through the tragic life of a man stricken with acute neurofibromatosis who is physically repulsive, but of great sensitivity.

In certain respects, members ofsects also suffer from social exclusion. While it may not be the type of solitude experienced by the Elephant Man, people in sects are completely cut off from their families and in absolute submission to a guru. Each member of the sect is isolated, surrounded by a group from which they can expect no support.

Who can resist? Who is psychologically sound enough to face these forms of fanaticism which can be very appealing at first? Marie, the heroine, speaks to avoid the sect’s brain-penetrating language which uses music. We wanted to represent how a sect functions by using as a basis real, albeit infamous, situations, such as the manipulation of children. 
 
The almost thousand believers, mostly African-Americans, who followed Jim Jones en masse to Guyana are very different from the French, Swiss and Canadian members of the Order of the Solar Temple who were lured into the sect by Luc Jouret and Joseph di Mambro.  The former were impoverished and poorly educated, while the latter were affluent and highly educated; both, however, were psychologically vulnerable. Why is it that nothing was able to prevent their fatal descent?  Usually, these lost souls are first approached by recruiters who are members of the sect to whom they fall prey, and then by the guru in person who uses means such as preaching, violence, and fear, all of which were used by Jim Jones, or who may resort to appealing, elaborate and esoteric arguments which are frequently accompanied by pseudo-scientific facts.

Paranoia is a constant, regardless of method or ideology: the desire to be the sole holders of the truth and to denounce those who our Guru refers to as “la Conjuration des imbeciles”, the Confederacy of Imbeciles.  The well-known process of seduction-destruction-reconstruction is used by most sectarian movements. It is virtually impossible to have a rational debate with members of these sects, even if they are still in contact with their friends and family. Their minds have been formatted, even the most rational and fact-backed arguments have no effect on them. Worse yet, they remain steadfast in their beliefs even when presented with real facts that unequivocally refute the guru’s theories. This explains why the end of the world can be announced regularly by such and such a guru and when nothing happens on the date specified, their followers continue to have unwavering faith. They are prisoners of their language. I wanted people to hear this.

Xavier Maurel, with his sober, elegant and imagery-filled style and his decision to include highly conflictual situations, was able to magnify a theme that remains dear to my heart. His innate sense of rhythm was not only precious, it greatly facilitated our impassioned collaboration. Once we had defined the essential components of the story, I gave him free rein to write the libretto.  Although we communicated continually throughout the process, Xavier wrote the story. The writing of the opera began in June 2006 and ended in October 2009. A year later it was recorded for Naxos in Budapest with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by me.

Guru on stage

I was extremely happy when The Castle Opera in Szczecin courageously decided to produce a work aimed at creating social change, which will be seen, I hope, as a warning about a social phenomenon with tragic consequences. Cults such as that of Jim Jones, Daesh, and Aum in Japan are paths of the absurd that converge. 

The island of the sinister Guru in our story is perhaps just outside your door.

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Xavier Maurel.  I would also like to thank Jacek Jekiel and Jerzy Woloziuk for their enthusiasm and curiosity, Stanislaw Suchora for introducing Guru in Poland, Jean-François Godin for his unfailing support, Damian Cruden for his unrestrained imagination in staging, the Fond de Création Lyrique, the Institut Français de Pologne, and the artists and technicians who worked on this production of Guru. And, a special thought for baritone Hubert Claessens and for Sonia Petrovna, irreplaceable on stage and off.

Laurent Petitgirard

English translation by Carmen Benito



With Xavier Maurel


Synopsis

The members of a sect lead reclusive lives on an island under the influence of Guru, their master, to whom they have entrusted themselves and their possessions as well as the task of guiding their lives. With Guru are Marthe, his mother, Iris, a now abandoned adept with whom he has had a child, and also Victor and Carelli, respectively the 'financier' and the 'scientist' of the organisation.
Guru wields total authority over his disciples, who are scrupulous in their adherence to the rules of life he has prescribed. They are weakened and fanatical, and their only food is derived by Carelli from sea water, a preparation that is supposed to lead them to 'transparency', the ultimate stage of sanctity before the 'great journey' (death, of course).
When the opera begins, new adepts have just arrived on the island. Among them is Marie, who holds herself apart, keeps her eyes open, and, above all, refuses to sing with the others (this is a speaking role from start to finish). She openly declares to Guru that she has "come to destroy him".
Guru, self-confident to the point of insanity, willingly sees Marie as a trial that has been sent him, and Marthe and Victor are astonished to notice that he has now come to believe in his own power and in what for them is just a ruse intended to delude simple minds.

It is in this context that Iris's child, who had been declared sacred by Guru – and who, as such, had been wasting away in the sect's sanctuary, a veritable living icon receiving scant nourishment – shows signs of being at death's door. Under Marie's influence, the troubled adepts seek to oppose Guru's will and attempt to save the child. When it dies, Guru sends them back, brilliantly using Carelli's fantastical theories as the basis of an electrifying speech.
The event is, however, a catalyst. Guru declares that the 'great journey' must wait no longer and fixes it for the following day. He orders everyone to make ready and prepare themselves for what will be nothing less than a huge collective suicide.

Iris, alone and in despair after the death of her child, is the first to commit suicide, thus managing as it were to escape from Guru's influence. Marthe and Victor, by now appalled at Guru's delirium, try to resist his plan, not having thought it would ever concern them. Yet the first dies by the hand of Guru himself, while the second is left to be lynched by a barbaric mob of frantic adepts.
Everything is ready for the tragic denouement, and all are about to drink the potion prepared by Carelli, supposed to enable them to meet again in purity in the spheres. Marie still wants to avoid the catastrophe, and Guru's final challenge is to tell her that if she finds a single adept who refuses to 'leave' with the others, he will renounce the 'journey' for them all. As he foresaw, she comes up against the stubborn refusal of every adept, and all drink what is quite simply poison. Racked by unbearable pain, the adepts die one after the other as Guru heaps insults on them, commanding them to show themselves worthy of the election of which, by this act, they are the objects.
Guru and Marie now confront each other amid the final death rattles. Before himself drinking the poison, he predicts that Marie also will follow them, the last yet the most precious of the converts. After the death of the mad master, Marie is left alone, prostrate with horror, gazing at the poison…

(english translation by Jeremy Drake)

CD

Naxos recording Budapest (October 2010, 8-25 ) - World release August 2012

Guru Hubert Claessens
Marie Sonia Petrovna
Victor Philippe Do
Iris Karen Wzierba
Carelli Philippe Kahn
Marthe Marie-Noel Vidal
New disciple 1 Andrea Csereklyei
New disciple 2 Sára Dezsö
New disciple 3 Gabriella Galbács
New disciple 4 Lajos Fodré
New disciple 5 György Philipp
New disciple 6 Kornél Mikecz
The disciples Budapest Studio Choir
Orchestra Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Budapest
Chorus Master Kalman Strausz
Singing Master Maril Laurila-Lili
Music Director Laurent Petitgirard

This recording is supported by :
INVESTIMO


Naxos 8-660300-01, World release August 2011
You may download GURU in Studio Masters Quality on Qobuz

Reviews


Classica, September 2011

Synchronized Scores

Cover's painting by Christian C
"La conjuration des imbéciles"
Acte I scene 2
Watch this synchronized score
"Victor et Guru"
Acte I scene 4
Watch this synchronized score
"Monologue de Guru"
Acte I scene 6
Watch this synchronized score
"Les adeptes veulent voir l'enfant"
Acte II scene 2
Watch this synchronized score
"Guru et Marie"
Acte II scene 3
Watch this synchronized score
"Il est mort"
Acte II scene 4 (2nd part)
Watch this synchronized score
Acte III scene 1
Watch this synchronized score
"Préparatifs et mort de Victor"
Acte III scene 4 (Extraits)
Watch this synchronized score
"Le supplique de Marie"
Acte III scene 6
Watch this synchronized score
"Le sacrifice"
Acte III scene 7
Watch this synchronized score


The full libretto


Click on the picture to download the full libretto (PDF file)


Photos

Click to enlarge