Librettist and director Richard Brunel pays tribute to Philippe Boesmans and recalls their first meeting, which inspired On purge bébé.
My dear, my very dear Philippe,
I first got to know you when I was in the audience at a performance of your Julie in 2005 in Aix-en-Provence. And already, then, I was greatly moved by your refined writing, your sense of drama and vocality and your high standards for the sung text. And without yet knowing you personally, I admired the marvellous artist that you were. And then in 2017 I was extraordinarily lucky to meet you, again in Aix-en-Provence, for the production of Pinocchio. Your spontaneous kindness and frank and cordial simplicity left a lasting impression on me.
I thank coincidence – you called it coincidence – for our chance meeting in a street near the Grand Theatre de Provence. And there, in that street you led me on a daring and almost impossible lyrical adventure: to stage a Feydeau play at the Opera. It had never been done before. And precisely because it was impossible, you wanted to do it. And you did. On purge bébé… Each time you took mischievous delight in pronouncing the title. On purge bébé. Your eyes would sparkle with cheekiness at the idea of a constipated child on the stage of the Opera. And the thought of a seller of chamber pots as the anti-hero of an opera had you in raptures.
Not long after, I came to see you in Brussels and we started to work together. I will never forget your wonderful sense of humour, your sensitivity, your keen eye and your joy at work, your risquée observations and elegant attention. What a pleasure and honour it is to have shared all these moments with you. Your weekly telephone calls to work on this Bébé or sometimes just to talk about the opera we would achieve after this one will be sorely missed. I am going to miss your jokes and your laughter.
We laughed together, laughed a lot – everything was an excuse to laugh. To laugh uproariously and live joyfully. And your final opera, will that also be for laughter? Writing that word – 'final' – leaves me hopelessly engulfed in deep emotion. Your absence doesn’t make me laugh, so, my dear friend, I’ll keep your laughter in my ears and it will guide me when I stage your On purge bébé. And the whole team and I will do it in your memory, and perform your opera with a mischievous joy, laughing while we work as much as we can.
Philippe, thank you so much for being you.