Vive la France
. This month Shanghai welcomes Le Rouge et le Noir: L’opéra Rock
, a modern French feast for the eyes and ears. Adapted by François Chouquet from Stendhal’s two-volume Le Rouge et le Noir
(1830), the rock opera of the same name features 3D multimedia effects and a live rock band accompaniment that weaves together elements of rock, pop and musical theatre.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the Bourbon Restoration seeks to re-enact social order. The opera title alludes to the pervasive tension during this period, be it between the passion of war and the gloom of death, secular and clerical interests or the sentimental and cerebral pursuits by the romantic protagonist Julien Sorel.
Le Rouge et le Noir chronicles the psychological and moral growth of Sorel, the son of a carpenter from the village of Verrières (‘more truthful’ in French), who has ambitions beyond his social ranks. Le Rouge et le Noir shows Sorel's religious devotion as a means of climbing the social ladder.
With grit, wit and deceit, Sorel enters the upper class and fumbles in his attempts at love, being first genuine yet adulterous with Monsieur de Rênal's wife and later calculating yet sophisticated with diplomat Marquis de la Mole’s daughter. Le Rouge et le Noir questions the feasibility of authenticity, as it is counterproductive to the social approval that determines one’s opportunities, destiny and, ultimately, identity.
Le Rouge et le Noir explores the loss of innocence. Success borne of hypocrisy and obscurity borne of sincerity ring true to many, while the mental slavery that worldly pursuits impose is all but too familiar. The audacity to dream in the face of despicable reality, combined with love and betrayal, makes Le Rouge et le Noir a tale with universal appeal. The much-lauded musical score is sure to make the rock opera adaptation all the more mesmerising to those numbed by the daily humdrum of city life.