The Bordeaux Opera is experimenting with “zero purchase”


Stunning effect! Hitherto concealed by curtains, a huge wall of mirrors slowly reveals itself. In the middle of Requiem of Mozart, brought to the stage of the Opéra de Bordeaux by Stéphane Braunschweig, the silhouettes of the choristers suddenly double. Before the reflective surface tilts to seemingly bury them.

Who, if he hadn’t read the program of the show, could suspect that this is a recovery device, elements drawn from the reserves of the Bordeaux theater? “We tried a “zero purchase” approach for the set, props and costumes, confirms Emmanuel Hondré, its managing director. Because we may be at the end of the cycle where we buy, store and destroy. » Without setting itself up as a new norm, this policy with its economic, energy and ecological virtues, “is justified if it does not curb the imagination of artists but stimulates it differently”he pleads.

“The human more than the ornamental”

With his first weapons in a company ” penniless “Stéphane Braunschweig, now head of the Théâtre de l’Odéon, is familiar with the “accounting” aspect of his art. “In addition, the ‘zero purchase’ fits with the refined style of my shows, which focus more on the human than on the ornamental, explains the director. While visiting the warehouses of the Opéra de Bordeaux, I was attracted by these mirrors whose metaphysical dimension responds to the overwhelming one of the Requiem. »

A saving of €40,000 was thus achieved, offering “a second life for dormant materials”, rejoices Emmanuel Hondré, emphasizing the coherence of the project with the reflection on life and death at the heart of the work, left unfinished by the death of its author. As of next month, a second production of this type is on the program, a Dido and Aeneas of Purcell “revisited” by young artists. “For this generation, “zero purchase” is obvious! » In 2024, a co-production with the Opéra de Limoges will adopt this same principle.

Strengthening the links between opera and society

On the stage, 18 coffins of light wood handled by the choristers recall the presence of death. “We had no wood in stock, continues Emmanuel Hondre. The Caisserie bordelaise, which works for the wine sector, gave us the raw material, in exchange for tickets to shows, the intervention of artists in the company…” This strengthens the links between the Opera and the economic and social fabric of the region, at the heart of the concerns of the world of culture… and of the demands of political leaders.

If the Requiem “zero purchase” is a first in the opera sector in France, “Environmental actions have been part of the strategy of theaters for several years, which discuss their best practices”, welcomes Paola Scotton, coordinator at the Réunion des Opéras de France. In 2019, the Opéra de Lyon implemented environmental assessment tools, providing in particular for the eco-design of sets and the circular economy. In April 2021, the Lille Opera was the first in France to obtain the ISO 20121 sustainable label. The Avignon Opera places eco-responsibility at the heart of its exchanges between artists and the public. Last December, the Operas of Lyon, Paris, Brussels, the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and the Théâtre du Châtelet formed the Collectif 17 h 25 to pool “the standardized production of scenic elements”

More virtuous materials

Flagship of lyrical art, the Paris Opera insists, through the voice of its deputy general manager Martin Ajdari, on its identity as a repertoire theatre: “Two-thirds of productions are covers (see platy by Rameau by Laurent Pelly, rerun six times since 1999), already an economy in itself, to which our policy of co-productions is added. » As for the production of the sets, it aims to use greener materials: “Greedy in electricity, aluminum is replaced by steel and wood, continues Martin Ajdari. Exotic, okoumé, resistant and light, gives way to maritime pine and poplar. We are also looking for more ecological solutions using polystyrene…”


For Ariodante of Handel next April, the director Robert Carsen, renowned for the aesthetics of his shows, “agreed to reuse household accessories”. Promising step in negotiations with artists who, until now, preferred to create from scratch.


Two “0 buy” shows

Requiem of Mozart until January 28. Directed by Stéphane Braunschweig, with Hélène Carpentier, Fleur Barron, Oleksiy Palchykov, Thomas Dear, the Choir (prepared by Salvatore Caputo) and the Orchester de l’Opéra de Bordeaux under the direction of Roberto González-Monjas.

Dido and Aeneas revisited, from February 4 to 6. Directed by Louise Brun and musical arrangement by Haru Shionoya. In the title roles, Amandine Portelli and Eduard Ferenczi-Gurban.

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