Bastien und Bastienne

Stage Direction

OPERA | Bastien und Bastienne

music > W.A.Mozart | Libretto > Wilhelm, Weiskern, Mullher & Schachtner | First performance at the Royal Opera House | Bastienne > Dusica Bijelic | Bastien > David Butt Philip | Colas > Jihoon Kim | Factory Owner’s Wife > Justina Gringyte | Conductor > Michele Gamba | Continuo > Paul Wingfield | Orchestra > Southbank Sinfonia | Designer > Pedro Ribeiro & Shophie Mosberger | Lighting > Warren Letton | London UK | 2012 |Backdrop Image: © ROH / Richard H Smith 2012

> Director’s Note

In retelling Mozart’s early opera, we defy the pastoral setting. In a time when cotton no longer made sense and fibres took over, two shepherds fight to keep their business going between the pasture and the town. They roam along an abandoned railway track during long nights and dawns and sometimes they have the company of a handyman, who thinks that gives good advice… and can do magic… in return of some for some simple favours…


“(…) Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne, written when the composer was twelve years old. It’s a slight piece about a courtship between shepherd and shepherdess. Staging this literally would expose the weaknesses of the piece. Ribeiro and Mosberger set the Singspiele in a vaguely industrial landscape, which added much needed good humour and gave the singers more material with which to develop character (…)” > Anne Ozorio | Opera Today


“This interestingly contrasted double bill featured singers, conductors and a director – more than one half of The Royal Opera’s current intake of Young Artists – in roles that focused on the emerging talent nurtured by the Programme. The libretto on which Mozart based his early singspiel Bastien und Bastienne offered the 12-year-old composer little dramatic substance but he infused with music of much charm and tunefulness to create a situation in which two rustic lovers, separated before curtain-rise, are reunited by the intervention of a perceptive third party. The producer Pedro Ribeiro and his designer Sophie Mosberger enlivened the pastoral setting and the plot with a railway track along which the shepherdess Bastienne moved wagonloads of replica sheep, heard baaing before the music started, round their pastures – four-legged figurants are always a hit (…)”  > Margaret Davies | Opera Magazine


 “This double bill by the Jette Parker Young Artists was a delight. The story is that Bastien, strongly sung here by David Butt Philip, has had a dalliance with an attractive woman portrayed by Justina Gringyte in a sexy red dress. Dušica Bijelić as Bastienne, advised by Jihoon Kim as the soothsayer Colas wins him back by feigning indifference. Ms Bijelić sang very well and played her role with panache, while Jihoon Kim sang a very fine bass-baritone. The German diction was good from everyone and strikingly good from David Philip Butt. The production use of railway tracks was rather a good idea, and conducting by Michele Gamba gave a powerful feel for Mozart’s music. (…) Altogether this was a thoroughly good evening, with music played by the Southbank Sinfonia (…) Not to be missed.” > Mark Ronan | markronan.wordpress

Writing an opera at the age of 12 is an extraordinary feat but if you want proof that Mozart actually was once a child, his singspiel Bastien und Bastienne provides it.  Apart from the very opening which makes us think we’re in for a performance of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony (a case of a good tune not gone to waste), it’s made up of brief airs, dull and thankfully briefer recitatives and the most naive of scenarios. (…) Pedro Ribeiro avoids any sense of tea-set cosiness in this Jette Parker Young Artists showcase by setting this simple tale of shepherds, shepherdesses and their relationship problems on an Eastern European railway track. It’s an imaginative staging (…)  > Simon Thomas | What’s on stage ***


“(…) Upon entering the Linbury one notices some rails; a clue perhaps to the production of the Mozart being on the right track. The first sounds heard belong to the farmyard. Fair enough, Bastien und Bastienne is a pastoral opera and the named characters are here sheep farmers; their stock (woolly until sheared) pushed around on carts on those very rails. (…) This is a double-bill worth catching (…) The Mozart is a curiosity given who wrote it – but it has charm and the production is light-hearted with three excellent singers.” > Colin Anderson | Classical Source

“(…) Pedro Ribeiro’s production conjured a quaint, modern rural landscape, a line of railroad tracks broken on either side by desultory telephone poles. The backdrop alternated between intermittently blue and violet hues, lit at times to evoke the orangish fire of a setting sun (…) the staging – co-designed by Mr. Ribeiro and Sophie Mosberger – was otherwise more successful than not. (…) The Young Artists are an impressive bunch, and though I can certainly think of more impressive one-act operas with which to showcase their talents, they nevertheless brought out the promise latent in Mozart’s early score. (…) Bijelic’s Bastienne (…) was genuinely funny, and she carried off the comedy of the part well. The Bastien of David Butt Philip was a bustling country boy (…) The exaggerated acting of the two was not out of step with the work as a whole, and they made an endearing couple. They were joined by the Colas of Jihoon Kim, who largely stole the performance during the scenes in which he appeared. Mr. Kim’s (…) he played the part of the soothsayer with presence and well-judged comic effect. (…)” > John E de Wald | Opera Britannia ****