Bernard Uzan, who grew up in France and is now based in New York, is a librettist and director who’s had a lifelong love of opera … and of the powerful story of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Q. You and Dr. David DiChiera, founder and artistic director of Michigan Opera Theatre, wrote Cyrano together. How did it come to be, and how did you two work together?
A. Well, it’s been a long time. Cyrano premiered 10 years ago, and David and I – we’ve been friends since 1982 – began working on it about two years before that. I grew up loving this fantastic, beautiful story. Cyrano de Bergerac is the classic play of French literature. I had a childhood obsession with the character of Cyrano. It’s always been in my mind, and I am 70 years old now.
Q. Why do you think the character resonates with you?
A. Cyrano resonates with everyone. Everyone has something akin to Cyrano’s nose.
Q. How did you adapt – and condense – material you love so much?
A. I tried to keep as much of it as possible. But the original play has over 200 characters. Obviously, I had to cut many of them. I had to cut scenes and summarize. If we had staged the opera as the play was written, it would’ve been eight hours! So, I reduced where I could. But 30 to 40 percent of the text is from the original.
The text was written first. I sent it to David, and he asked me to come to his home in Detroit to listen to what he’d written. His daughter was there, and after he’d been playing for two or three minutes, all three of us were in tears. That’s how beautiful this music is.
Q. Most people in Charlotte will be seeing the opera for the first time – even though they’ll be familiar with the story. What should they know about it?
A. I’d say it’s important to know this – not just for Cyrano, but for any opera: Arrive open to what you’re going to hear. When you come to the theater, leave your problems at home. Arrive being vulnerable. You will receive a lot. There’s something that happens in your soul when you’re at the opera.
Learn more or purchase tickets: operacarolina.org or 704.372.1000.