Pimpinone, Lausanne Opera, Photo Marc Vanappelghem w/ Eva Fiechter and Benoît Capt

Lausanne Opera, under the direction of Eric Vigié, inaugurates a summer opera caravan that takes Teleman and Pergolese to festivals and venues throughout Vaud, including the free July Festival de la Cité in Lausanne and the August Saint Prex Festival organized by expat Hazeline van Swaay. Lively, touching and funny, the programme is meant to attract everyone.

“If people don’t go to the opera,” Eric Vigié the director of the Lausanne Opera believes “opera should go to them.”

True to his credo, he has inaugurated an opera road show that descends on venues in 16 different cities or locations over the summer months.

He has chosen to present ‘Pimpinone’, a comic intermezzo in three parts by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) and ‘La serva padrona’ a buffa intermezzo in two parts by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736).

“Teleman’s piece was quite daring for the beginning of the 18th century in Germany, whereas Pergolesi’s composition is in the true Naples style that led to light-hearted ‘opera buffa’,” says Vigié.

“Although they represent musical schools that could not be further apart, I thought it would be interesting to present them together as they basically tell the same story, even though they are developed in different ways,” he adds.

Vigié points out that it was the performance of ‘La serva padrona’ in August 1752 by a troupe of Italian performers in Paris that sparked the infamous Querelle des Bouffons or the Quarrel of the Comedians.

“It was the first time that an opera poked fun at society,” the director emphasizes, “and it was an instant success when Pergolesi, who died at the young age of 26, wrote it three hundred years ago.”

But when it was presented in France, the respective merits of Italian and French opera were compared, pitting the lighter comic style from Italy against the tragic lyricism of Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau, the French court composers of that time.

The ‘pamphlet war’ that ensued was later widely recognized as a philosophical confrontation between traditional ideals and the emerging period of the enlightenment.

La Serva Padrona, Lausanne Opera, Photo Marc Vanappelghem

“By associating Pergolesi with Telemann, the celebrated German composer, my intention was also to propose a project of musicological interest,” specifies Eric Vigié.

“I’m convinced that these little jewels will allow opposing parties to reconcile,” he says jokingly.

“I decided to direct both the Teleman and the Pergolesi in a style that is light, agitated and burlesque,” explains the director, who also signed the decors and costumes.

The entire production fits into a lorry, save the more fragile items such as lighting. It can be mounted in four hours and dismantled in three.

Four singers, a dancer and an actor make up the two casts, accompanied by 13 musicians.

Pimpinone, Lausanne Opera, Photo Marc Vanappelghem with Benoît Capt and Eva Fiechter

“We recently went on a tour to Japan where we presented ‘Carmen’ 15 times in 11 different cities over three weeks, so we thought that if we could do it there, why not try back home.”

The project is generously backed by the canton and private sponsors as it aims to attract new audiences to the opera.

Furthermore it takes place at a time when the refurbishment and renovation of the Lausanne Opera obliges it to use alternative venues until 2012.

“Most people think that opera is too long, boring and expensive, but we want to prove that it can be entertaining and charming,” Eric Vigié insists.

Vigié, who has been the Lausanne Opera’s director since 2005, is reputed for his capacity to identify and attract voices of superlative quality and presence.

“Singing in so many different environments, especially when we perform out of doors, can be challenging,” the young baritone, Benoît Capt, who plays the role of the master in ‘Pimpinone’, says in a recent interview, “but we are helped by the extreme precision of the directing and the quality of the technical team.”

“If all goes well, we would like to repeat this experience every two years,” says Vigié.

La Serva Padrona, Lausanne Opera, Photo Marc Vanappelghem with Katia Velletaz and Alexandre Diakoff

In the meantime the hyperactive director will also be putting together a programme for the Avenches Festival of which he takes the reins next year.

Just as well too, as this year’s production of Donizett’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’, in this reporter’s opinion, would put anyone off opera for life.

Somewhat untypically for an opera director, Vigié likes a good laugh and wants his audiences to have a good time.

Coming to a place near you, the Lausanne Opera’s ‘La Route lyrique’ is an opportunity to discover opera for the price of a song and sometimes even for free.


Michèle Laird, née Haffner, was an international arts administrator (visual arts and theatre), successively in Paris, New York and London, before moving to Switzerland and becoming an arts journalist.

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