Returning to Tipasa (Retour à Tipasa)
concert given at the Opéra de Marseille
 September 2005



Light and shadow: Debussy, Tomasi, and Mahler at the Opéra. The season’s opening performance had Tomasi as its heart, well encircled by Debussy and Mahler.

Based on a text by Camus, Returning to Tipasa – a ‘Profane Cantata’ for narrator, men’s choir and orchestra – is Tomasi. A Tomasi come back from religious illusions and smokescreens; a layman’s return to the horizon of man, a humanistic credo, and an exaltation of the light of Algeria, even when crossed with clouds of doubt.

The serene majesty of a dawn, ‘of a liquid morning’, swells and is discretely sprinkled with the pizzicati of the strings. ‘The rain had finally wet the sea,’ but it washed the sky. Camus’ poetic speech is delicately draped in music. Through subtle touches of color with silken tones, the musical texture vibrates, creates harmonies, arises from the text, hovers above it, becomes its finely tuned halo, touches and caresses it.

Perfectly in tune with the rhythm, the musical waves, the flow of the great actor Daniel Mesguich’s warm, voluptuous voice is confidential and humble, close at first to the humid humus, then approaching the exhaled scents of a sun becoming increasingly ardent, and finally bursting with the birdsong of a thousand diversions and fireworks: O Light, vibrant light! leaving behind ‘the winter of faces’.

Pantheistic consolation of a man in revolt against the world, but in harmony with nature, exalted, ‘in the midst of winter’ ‘an invincible summer within me’.

Following the imponderable, intangible instrumentations of Debussy, we have the guileless yet equally impressionistic palette of Tomasi.


Benito Pellegrin