In Nantes, behind the scenes of the opera “Les Sauvages”

In Nantes, behind the scenes of the opera

Nantes (Loire-Atlantique)

From our regional correspondent

That afternoon, backstage at the Théâtre Graslin, seven children are getting ready to fly in the air. These CM2 students from the Dervallières-Chézine school in Nantes put on their stage costume, a brightly colored football jersey. Everyone will then be filmed, on a green background, rising as if by magic to ten meters above the ground, eyes closed then wide open. They are suspended by a harness and wires as resistant as they are invisible, actuated by machinists. These videos, intended to represent a moment of dreams, will then be embedded in the decor of the future opera. At first it is a little scary, and then not at all, says Heaven, a 10-year-old apprentice flyer. Glad I did and be a part of a great show.

This great show is called The Savages, opera imagined by the company Frasques, based in the Dervallières district, in Nantes, and involved for a long time with audiences far removed from culture. “Initially, they just wanted to play their show with us, remembers Alain Surrans, director of Angers Nantes Opéra, ardent defender of cultural action systems. I offered them not only the stage but also the means of opera, from decorating workshops to costumes, including our professional choir and our musical director. I told them: “Take everything, believe in your dreams and we will try to make them come true”. “

Fully integrated into the Angers Nantes Opéra season, The Savages will be played on June 23 and 24 at the Théâtre Graslin in Nantes, if sanitary conditions allow. It takes as a backdrop two districts of Nantes, Breil and Dervallières, regularly placed in the media spotlight for violence linked to drug trafficking. It features two groups of young people, “the band of Nino”, played by 21 pupils of CM2, and the “band of Pasquale”, interpreted by 24 college students, accompanied by the choristers of Angers Nantes Opéra.

In a setting combining concrete and lush nature, a “savage”, interpreted by the soprano Marie-Bénédicte Souquet, will appear without warning, shaking up the neighborhood, its inhabitants and its external stakeholders (town planners, police officers, political leaders, etc.). “The terms ‘wildlings’ or ‘ensauvagement’ regularly appear in public debate., contextualizes the pianist and composer Guillaume Hazebrouck, founder of the company Frasques. What we want to question in this show is the figure of the savage. Aren’t we all somebody’s savage?

The writing of the libretto, signed Guillaume Lavenant, was intended from the outset to be participatory. Last year, several workshops enabled students from Rosa-Parks college, located in Le Breil, to share their ideas and concerns. “The good thing is that they really wanted to shine a light on our life, says 14-year-old Darren who participated in the project. We were even consulted on the places that make up the wealth of our neighborhood to design the sets for the show..

The young people thus showed artists their key places: ” the forest “, evoking the green alleys of Dervallières, “The ghetto” and “The three towers”, for the buildings in Le Breil, or “The private ones”, designating these plush apartments where wealthier social categories live, with which they do not mix.

“The fundamental idea is that these young people meet opera and that opera meets these children., comments the plastic artist Guillaume Carreau, scenographer for the company Frasques. We would like to show that there is no culture superior to another. ”

What to delight François Jarny, teacher in CM2 at the Dervallières-Chézine school, who has worked for a long time with the company. “We had already made musicals together, he says. But an opera is a first! Above all, my students don’t just go behind the scenes. They are the ones who will take the stage. They are not assigned to an expected cell …

Same enthusiasm with Valentin Leroux, music teacher at Rosa-Parks college, galvanized by this adventure. VShis experience offers a tremendous booster of self-confidence, he observes. It is essential for these young people who do not have the same openness as those in the city center. They can finally project themselves into a world that is not necessarily theirs. I think they will come out of it bigger and it will be beautiful. “

Every week, his students work on their voice, their text or their gestures with the artists. “The happiness of these projects is the incredible appetite of the children, greets Guillaume Hazebrouck. In a few months, we are witnessing incredible developments! That Thursday, in the music room of the Rosa-Parks college, the composer sat down at the piano to work on a text preluding a serenade. After a few laughs while reading the text, the young people get caught up in the game, carried away by the music subtly mixing heckling and dreamlike.

I like to sing, at school, at home; all the time, in fact, smiles Faïna, 12 years old. I really like when we vary our voices from the highest to the lowest. This is precisely the exercise proposed by their teacher Valentin Leroux in an adjoining room. “We open our mouths well, jaw down to gain power and we sing without forcing but with authority”, he asks three schoolgirls, who perform their vocalizations, their eyes shining with pride.

They will then join the college’s multipurpose room, equipped with a platform on which the director Guillaume Gatteau asks them to read a text from the libretto aloud, stating each point and each comma. “By doing this work, you will speak loudly, clearly and you will be less afraid”, he promises the young girls, who are working to overcome their shyness and adjust their postures. “An actor stands up straight and does not speak too quickly”, continues the actor, creator of the theater company La faithful idea. “I need to see them move, speak and sing on a stage to help them take a theatrical approach., he explains. What’s great is that they are always more generous and involved as the weeks go by..

The preparation of the show, which keeps teachers and students in suspense, allows us to put a harsher daily life at bay. The death of a 15-year-old high school student, seriously injured in a shooting in January 2021 at the foot of a building in Dervallières, deeply marked the neighborhood. “We are quite helpless in the face of these tragedies which hit us hardreacts Valentin Leroux, who notes that many families avoid enrolling their children in this establishment where students in economic and social difficulties are concentrated. If our opera can help convey an image other than this criminal background, this will already be a first step.

For the technical teams of the opera as for the artists, these rehearsal times also offer a welcome breath of fresh air. “With the students, I nourish myself with happiness and joy, slips Guillaume Gatteau. When I learn of enormous postponements of shows due to the health crisis, what we are currently sharing with this opera is quite simply vital …


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