Vanda, chamber opera for mezzo-soprano, viola da gamba and electronics

Libretto by Jean-Pierre Siméon


For this score, Lionel worked on the concept of a profound intimacy within the music. He combines the baroque vocality of the viola da gamba to the contemporary music sound materials and the pulse of the amplified music to the powerfull emotion that emerges from the lyrical voice.

In his text, Jean-Pierre Siméon reveals a poignant story of an exiled woman (from the Balkans) who recounts to her baby the stories of her life, origins and parents, of the love, the war, the violence…

A profound text which portrays the life of an exiled woman, her struggles and her every day humiliations.


copyright Jimmy Vallentin

Pure wonder that this rare pearl, too rare for the rest, in a case of eternity

An opera-biff. Sober, dark and poignant

A staggering sight!

Vanda, opens spectacularly the new season of Contemporary Mornings at the Reims Opera House


Press quote


« Wrenchingly emotional … the composer Lionel Ginoux leads us to present his last chamber opera, Vanda, with the sound of the viola da gamba of Marie-Suzanne de Loye, the voice of mezzo-soprano of Ambroisine Bré and its own beaches of electronic music. Adapted from a play by Jean-Pierre Simeon, Vanda tells the life sacked of a woman in the war, ready to abandon her baby. The chamber opera created at the Reims Opera House in a staging of Nadine Duffaut opens spectacularly the new season of Contemporary Mornings in partnership with Césaré.
Dominique Bunel – Mag’Opéra #7


An opera-biff. Sober, dark and poignant.   

Intimist, chamber music, pocket opera, Vanda is all that. Extremely sober in the visible means: a stage, a singer, a gambist, a diaphanous curtain, video projections, and as “accessories”, a chair, and a bassinet (this one will reveal, in fact, the narrative node). But these are demanding backstage means. And this scenic rendering gives you a punch in your ear, in your heart, in your life. From this ordinary tragedy of our century, we do not come out unscathed.      

The emotion is palpable in the theatre : gorges knotted, perhaps a stealthy tear, oppressed breasts, short breaths. And in the end, we do not return so easily to the reality of everyday life, our daily cozy home.

Because what Vanda spits in our faces, vomit us in the heart, it is the terrible course of a young woman, young mother, coming from the Balkans. She could have come from elsewhere and be anywhere else than in the jungle of Calais (Nadine Duffaut director was born in Boulogne-sur-Mer), whose images burst the background, terrible by dint of being mundane. But she is there in front of us, a refugee like so many others, she has lived all the dramas, all the humiliations; we wonder how she can still stand up.

Ambroisine Bré is hallucinating in this violent, heartbreaking, shameless, monstrous and tender role. Her song comes from the bowels, naked, sometimes hoarse sometimes caressing. Because she, Vanda, loved and has been loved. And the emotion that it throws at us, that imposes on us, is so strong that it kills all feeling, until the pity. Only disgust, almost physical nausea, beyond pure ideological outrage.

As for the unprecedented marriage between recorded electronic music (as in The Shadow of Venceslao) signed by Lionel Ginoux – young prolific composer, initially formed in Avignon – and the viola da gamba played by Marie-Suzanne de Loye, sober and intense on the edge of the stage, he emphasizes in a masterly way a strong text, stripped to the very essence of sensation. As if voice, music, text, lights, and presence, could only exist together.

In the intimate and majestic setting of the Chartreuse de Villeneuve-lez-Avignon, one of the emblematic venues of the Avignon’s Festival In, Vanda will remain a highlight of the Avignon season.

I believe I have the formidable responsibility to be the first, or one of the first journalist to report on this production, created at the Opéra de Reims in November 2016, then given to the Fontevraud Abbey concert version, and whose in Vaucluse is the third stage. It’s an honor and a happiness, for such an intense show. Necessary and unsustainable. Geneviève Dewulf – Classique en Provence


Pure wonder that this rare pearl, too rare for the rest, in a case of eternity;
« Le Testament de Vanda » in an opera version in the old refectory of the Carthusians at the Chartreuse of Villeneuve les Avignon.

Poetry to denounce the unbearable heaviness of being …

How not to be captivated, once again, by the poem by Jean-Pierre Siméon. Written without punctuation, as in a single last breath of agony, the poem unfolds the words of Vanda, a woman probably from the Balkans, an immigrant and single woman, with her baby “Belette”, in a detention center, in France . To her « Belette », she will not give her a name, a loss of identity necessary to “blend into the mass of here”, Vanda delivers her memories to the sleeping baby, the tragedy of a young life that only men know how to dirty it. And it is the prolonged cry of Mater Stabat Furiosa (by the same author) who “stands and does not want to understand” the violence of men, their thirst for war, their infinite intolerance. It is the cry of « Nawal » who delivers to her twins another testament in « Incendies » by Wajdi Mouawad (The Blood of Promises / 2). Texts for the stage, among so many others today, that raise current issues, those of the war that annihilates the individual, the lost identity, the escape, the impossible integration, the refusal of this violence made to those who have not chosen to fight the Other.

Opera to transmit the sensitive world…

It is through the words of Vanda that we travel through horror until the end of a love story stopped by a suicide. Words against rape, powerful words that invective to the face of the divine “I believe in God but I hate God / to have made man and in making man / to have created a body for murder” (Amen … sic!).

Making this poetic work, already given on the theatrical stage, an opera, becomes obvious for the composer Lionel Ginoux. Sensitive already to the harmonies of the poem itself, he chooses to make them more present with this musical palette that fits perfectly to the work of Simeon, by the electronic music and the viola da gamba. We are charmed, at the literal meaning of the term, by Marie-Suzanne de Loye standing on the edge of the stage. A stripped scene : high curtain of wires, bluish neon demarcating the space on the ground, nude lamp falling from the ceiling, bassinet on the ground, we are in a place of retention, and the scenographer Emmanuelle Fabre captures perfectly the empty space between the two worlds.

Behind the wire’s curtain, the projections scroll, images come from the jungle of Calais, topical theme, we think of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, all regions confronted with the unthinkable.

It is the mezzo-soprano Ambroisine Bré who captivates the scene and sings the evils of Vanda, song of the swan of a bird woman, light in the movement, deep in powerful and warm variations, serious and lyrical according to which she tells and delivers her story to her « Belette ». Ambroisine Bré incarnates with an exceptional intensity the Vanda testamentary song, she has this particular vocal tone which comes to marry all the contours of this tragic-lyric poem.

The staging to show the heart of the work…

Staging this text to make it a chamber opera, intimate in the background, it was necessary to give it a strength combined with a necessary intensity while avoiding a pathos manifest, keep the dramatic accents of Vanda up the acme of feeling that drives her to suicide. Nadine Duffaut achieves this remarkably with this intuition of the text and music that is hers. She is known for her commitment to larger operatic works, but here she seems to have found the very essence of her profound expression. The genre, more modest than a classical opera, is nonetheless, in the choice of a sober and powerful staging, a moment of incomparable beauty. We listen again to the text, sometimes through tears of spite and impotence, the words are borne by a plural music that comes to superimpose the times, the poem comes alive to the rhythm of the images of Calais and the word of Vanda becomes the one of all those women who leave their country, a child in their arms, a heart bleeding before this “sleeping God”. Lay down her shoes, her “soles of wind” that will no longer serve, to pose the “little pebble” near “Tom Thumb dreamer” that may become « Belette », the child without identity, without name but who holds “two suns in her hands.”
Marianne Millet – Le Feuillet de l’Opéra


Erase its trace?

« Belette » is an unnamed baby. Vanda, her mother, a refugee from the Balkans, stranded in a French detention center, would have liked to give her that of Ivo, her love accomplished there … But she lost it, left in the country, broken by the war, mutilated and hanged on a tree! “Belette » is the result of a gang rape. Vanda sings her journey, as a testament, and her past so heavy to bear that she refuses to leave it as an inheritance … Vanda is a chamber opera by Lionel Ginoux, taken again at the Chartreuse of Villeneuve lez Avignon after its creation in Reims end of 2016. It’s a staggering sight! Because the young mezzo-soprano Ambroisine Bré (Revelation Adami 2017) is exceptional in a role of nowaday’s woman, complety exhausted, lost and lucid at the same time. Her vocal and theatrical performance is the mark of a great artist. Because with minimalist means, a viola da gamba (Marie-Suzanne de Loye) that escapes the baroque trails, it is an orchestra that we hear: the strings support a lyrical writing beautiful, mix with electronics sound and with machinist effects that intensify the dramatic impulses of the text by Jean-Pierre Siméon (The Testament of Vanda). Because the scenography (Emmanuelle Favre) and the lights (Philippe Grosperrin) preserve in the mineral square of the Chartreuse an ideal playing space, both closed and open (illusory) on a large video window projected in the background. There parading plans, in slow motion, in black and white, the jungle of Calais. The balance is reached, between the sound and the scenic, the purpose and its realization. Especially since Nadine Duffaut’s actress direction is a model! Broken to the scenes of operas, the director brings out, with each memory, the poetic dimension of the libretto while keeping an attentive ear to the rhythm of the score. It brings to life the horror of morbid rape, resurrect love passion, the osmosis of the young woman with a lost nature, war and escape, the humiliations of exile, the tenderness of a lullaby sung in leitmotif … Vanda is the cry of a swan, that of a bird of passage who chooses oblivion and erasure of traces. Her opera will sing her memory!
Jacques Freschel – Zibeline


1 mezzo-soprano
1 viola da gamba


duration 65′

first performance 6 november 2016, Reims Opera house
Jean-Pierre Siméon, author
Ambroisine Bré, mezzo-soprano
Marie-Suzane de Loye, viola da gamba
Nadine Duffaut, staging
Philippe Grosperrin, lighting
Emmanuelle Favre, scenary
Danièle Barraud, costumes
Arthur Colignon, video

commissioned by Act’tempo



Le vent je l’avalais

La nuit du lendemain

Tu dors Belette

Quand on a roulé dans l’herbe

Live recording during the Premiere at the Reims Opera house


Captation during the premiere at the Reims Opera House , 5 november 2016


musical residency
Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud from 23 to 28 november 2015
Simona Caressa, mezzo-soprano
Marie-Suzanne de Loye, viola da gamba

staging residency
Reims Opera house from 1 to 6 november 2016
Ambroisine Bré, mezzo-soprano
Marie-Suzanne de Loye, viola da gamba

Nadine Duffaut, staging
Philippe Grosperrin, lighting
Emmanuelle Favre, scenary
Danièle Barraud, costumes
Arthur Colignon, video

19 may 2017, Abbaye de Fontevraud [concert version]
Ambroisine Bré, mezzo-soprano
Marie-Suzane de Loye, viola da gamba

6&7 april 2018, Avignon Opera House
Ambroisine Bré, mezzo-soprano
Marie-Suzanne de Loye, viola da gamba

Nadine Duffaut, staging
Philippe Grosperrin, lighting
Emmanuelle Favre, scenary
Danièle Barraud, costumes
Arthur Colignon, video