Commissioned in 1975 by the Opéra national de Paris, Olivier Messiaen's opera is here stage directed by Pierre Audi for the Nederlandse Opera.
A spiritual father for the 20th century maestri (Boulez, Stokhausen or Xenakis), Olivier Messiaen was, since the beginning of the 1930s, renowned as a master of his art. A believer, a sacred music lover, but also a passionate birds lover, he initiated a huge avant-garde in orchestral music.
When Rolf Liebermann commissions an opera to Olivier Messiaen, the composer first hesitates. But Messiaen has an idea: write about the monk St Francis of Assisi, the saint who is the most similar to the Christ, and who speaks to birds. It took eight years to Messiaen to compose, orchestrate and write a libretto for this hagiographic opera, premiered in 1983 under the baton of Seiji Ozawa.
It is a well known fact that St Francis of Assisi, the monk who cures the lepers thanks to the infiny love God gives him, and preaches sermons to the birds, has also inspired other artists such as Petrarca or Liszt. Messiaen writes this story after the Bible, but focuses on the miracles and almost fairy elements of the tale.