Photo Credit: Julius Ahn

BIOGRAPHY

After separate beginnings in dance, theatre, television and the opera field Renaud Doucet, Stage director & Choreographer, and André Barbe, Set & Costume Designer, joined forces in 2000. Since then they created together over 30 new opera productions that are recognized for their creativity, sense of spectacle and minutely detailed dramaturgy.

Trained musician Renaud Doucet began his performing career as a solo dancer, ballet master, teacher and choreographer in international dance companies. He was introduced to the opera world as baroque choreographer & baroque gesture specialist, coaching singers like Alfredo Kraus, Jaime Aragall, Raina Kabaivanska or Mirella Freni. He also worked as an actor in various movies & TV series. 
He is regularly invited to give masterclasses and as jury member.

André Barbe received a bachelor of Fine Arts at Concordia University then studied at the National Theatre School of Canada under the tutelage of designer François Barbeau. Up to now he designed over 300 productions for Theatre, Television and Opera. He received the Irish Times Irish Theatre Award 2005 for best designer for the production of Pénélope at Wexford Festival Opera as well as the 2011 Rolf-Mares Prize for best sets & costumes for the production of La Cenerentola at the Hamburgische Staatsoper.
Since 2010 he is regularly invited to teach Set & Costume design at the National Theatre School of Canada.

Their work as a team gained international recognition with their new productions of Cendrillon by Massenet at l’Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg & l’Opéra de Marseille (France), New York City Opera (USA), Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe (Germany) and L’Opéra de Montréal (Canada), the Viennese premiere of The Sound of Music, Turandot  and Rusalka at the Volksoper Wien (Austria), Thaïs at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, l’Opéra de Montréal, Palm Beach Opera, Boston Lyric Opera & Florida Grand Opera,  Pénélope by Fauré, Si j’étais roi by Adam and Thérèse / La Navarraise at the Wexford Festival Opera (Ireland), Benvenuto Cellini and Iphigénie en Aulide at l’Opéra National du Rhin, Pelléas et Mélisande and The Rape of Lucretia at L’Opéra de Montréal, a North American production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, Boston Lyric Opera, Opera Colorado & Florida Grand Opera, Samson & Dalila at the Kungliga Operan in Stockholm, Manon at the Scottish Opera & Malmö Opera, the entire 2009-10 season of Florida Grand Opera in Miami with Lucia di Lammermoor, Pagliacci, Suor Angelica, Il Barbiere di Siviglia & Carmen, La Cenerentola at the Hamburgische Staatsoper, Turandot at Seattle Opera, Minnesota Opera, Utah Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Die Feen by Wagner for the bicentenial celebrations“Wagnerjahr 2013” for Oper Leipzig in coproduction with Bayreuther Festspiele, Don Pasquale at Scottish Opera & Florida Grand Opera and most recently the new productions of Arabella at Oper Köln, Les Contes d’Hoffmann at Oper Bonn & Volksoper Wien, Il Matrimonio Segreto at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik, Turandot at Opera Philadelphia & Atlanta Opera and La Bohème at Scottish Opera.

La Belle Hélène at the Staatsoper Hamburg that was filmed by ARTE and presented on the German & French TVs during the Christmas holidays and is now available on DVD.          (Click on image to see more)

Their upcoming productions include Turandot at Vancouver Opera, La Bohème at Theatre St Gallen, La Belle Hélène at the Staatsoper Hamburg, Rusalka – Les Contes d’Hoffmann – The Sound of Music at the Volksoper Wien, Il Matrimonio Segreto at Oper Köln and the new productions of Faust (1st version by Gounod) at the Wexford Festival Opera, Die Zauberflöte at the Glyndebourne Festival.

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A THEORY OF TWO WORLDS

Within every art form there exists an unending renaissance.

If history has taught us anything, it is this evolutionary spiral upon which we continually revisit the same longitudes only at different latitudes, different levels of the same experiences, experiences informed by the past yet ever mindful of the present. Following an aesthetic of deconstruction over the last three decades of productions, the tandem Barbe & Doucet have distinguished themselves in the world of opera by the way in which their work turns towards a spectaculaire signifiant, signifiers of the spectacular wherein every detail reflects the thought which embodies it––like fractals or the fragments of a mirror which reproduce in miniature monumental motifs. 

Among the many reasons which explain this aspect of their work one concerns the question of their origins. 

One is North American, the other European. While André Barbe studied in Montreal in the Fine Arts program at Concordia University and afterwards at the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada, Renaud Doucet, a trained musician, began his career as a dance soloist, a professor and choreographer for various dance companies and international schools. Since they first met at the Opera of Montreal in 2000, they have combined in their productions a sense of the spectacular––inspired by a civilization which gave birth to Hollywood, Broadway and the Cirque du Soleil––with the intellectual rigor of another which gave birth to the Encyclopedia, Voltaire, Nietzsche and Le Clézio.

By way of this unusual combination Barbe & Doucet made their mark, with their theory of two worlds: a return to the origins in order to recreate within the present a work which manages to capture what was pertinent in the first place. The researching of emotions together with the pure pleasure evoked by performance are key elements of what Barbe & Doucet pursue, elements which are often discarded in post-modern mise-en-scene by way of serving a radical deconstruction in a quixotic quest for universality.

Barbe & Doucet have defined their own way of deconstructing as a point of departure but it is in their particular way of re-appropriating and reconstructing that allows them to offer the public a work which, by way of a curious familiarity, opens the doors of perception while at the same time granting access to intelligent emotions by way of re-temporalising the work, by reinvigorating its pertinence.

While it appears impossible to deliver a performance strictly within a historic perspective, which achieves little more than a pitiable glimpse of life as it once was by way of period photographs, it is equally bizarre to reduce an opera to a dramatic schematic independent of the historic, cultural or social circumstances within which it was conceived. 

Like archeologists, Barbe & Doucet rigorously research and excavate the circumstances which prevailed at the time a piece was conceived by way of revealing and updating the ruins of a former epoch, those oft times dusty testimonials of works which in their time were considered modern. Their process consists of remaking a piece with the intention of offering contemporary audiences the same pertinence, the same emotional vigor, the same freshness and astonishment that was emoted in the past.

It is in this way that popular success does not appear so much as a defect as a stamp of approval, the product of fruitful questioning; an intellectual approach which seeks to situate the piece within an ever changing humanity which in itself is perpetually in crises and afflicted by a tendency to forget thus rendering it myopic.

What do Turandot and Cendrillon have in common if not having once been great and moving performances which spoke to the collective unconscious? But that time has passed and the mirrors have since been tarnished. One epoch follows another and each in its turn turns its back on what came before convinced of its own superiority. What was once spectacular becomes a cliché and the emotions disappear beneath the sediment left behind by successive vogues which come and go like the ocean’s tide. 

One must feel the pulse of the present to determine the rhythm of its heartbeat. What are its dreams and nightmares? What are its desires, both admitted and denied? What are the fault lines upon which at any moment it risks complete annihilation? It is only within these conditions that the interpretation of a piece, its re-birth and re-pertinencing, permits the public to embrace it within its contemporaneousness. 

Somewhere between the sacralization of a work, which kills it by rendering it inviolable and the betrayal of a work, which only corrupts it, Barbe & Doucet affirm the importance of theatrical emotions as the vector for reflecting upon the present.

In his theory of Ideas, Plato postulated the existence of an ideal world of beautiful forms and emotions situated in a higher realm inaccessible to humans who live in a state of deprivation and degradation. And yet this is the state within which we live and it is precisely from within this imperfect world that opera was created. It is this which Barbe & Doucet understand and affirm production after production as they seek to put their finger on what it is, in every instance, that distinguishes humans from this lofty ideal which they dream of attaining but never will. 

Our humanity is the stuff of their art, its subject and its object and therefore its unique reason for being what it is.

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