Saturday, August 18, 2012

Edwin Crossley-Mercer to star in life of Rousseau

Young Rousseau, countertenor Jonathan De Ceuster and adult Rousseau, Edwin Crossley-Mercer
One of the most anticipated premieres on our calendar is "JJR (Citizen of Genèva)," a new opera about the life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by composer Philippe Fenelon and librettist Ian Burton. The opera will open on September 11 with barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer playing one of the three Rousseau characters. 

The opera is in celebration of the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of the great Expressionist philosopher, writer and composer who hailed from Genèva. Rousseau wrote seven operas as well as music in other forms, and he made contributions to music as a theorist. Of course, he is best known as one of the great philosophers whose writings were so popular that he became a French hero. 

The opera was commissioned by the city of Geneva and the Grand Théâtre de Genève to celebrate the life of one of their greatest native sons. The modernist piece will be directed by the internationally renowned director Robert Carsen. 

Tenor Nicolai Gedda sings Rousseau's "Je vais revoir ma charmante maitresse":

The opera will follow the life of the composer from the age of 12, where he's played by the gorgeous countertenor Jonathan De Ceuster. It then takes him to age 21, when Crossley-Mercer portrays the great thinker. It ends with Rousseau at age 66, when he's played by the great character tenor Rodolphe Briand. During a single act, it crosses seven scenes of his life, in which nature, God, literary text, education, botany, sex and sensitivity are explored. Along the way it touches on his relationships with his contemporaries (Sade, Voltaire, Diderot), cultural icons of his time (Robinson Crusoe, an Italian opera castrato), his own philosophical and artistic creations and, of course, the women in his life.

Visit the Grand Théâtre de Genève website for additional information. 


  1. There are not many who have the vocal, emotional and technical ability to take on a task such as this. The opera is new; there are no precedents; there will be praise and criticism. However, Edwin Crossley-Mercer will do justice to the creative genius provided by Mr Fénelon, which I trust will be accessibly enhanced by the stage setting and content. He has my every confidence and encouragement.

  2. Before Rousseau in Geneva, Edwin made a television appearance on French TV, which has now been put on YouTube:

    See as of 58:50 in this programme - three songs and a surprise at the end.