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Fiery Cleopatra, Stanley Kowalski Star in Paris Spring Season

Stage director Laurent Pelly rehearses
Stage director Laurent Pelly rehearses "Giulio Cesare." The production is in repertory at the Palais Garnier through Feb 17, 2011. Photographer: Agathe Poupeney/Opera National de Paris via Bloomberg

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- If the euro is in crisis, as the pundits keep telling us, you wouldn’t guess it from the Paris spring season. It’s as rich and varied as ever.

The opera has just opened a new production of Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” (in repertory through Feb. 17). The countertenor Lawrence Zazzo sings the title role, and Natalie Dessay has her first go at the role of seductress Cleopatra.

Laurent Pelly directs, and Emmanuelle Haim conducts the period-instrument Orchestre du Concert d’Astree.

The opera’s second premiere is a rarity, Riccardo Zandonai’s 1914 “Francesca da Rimini,” based on a story of love and jealousy from Dante’s “Inferno.” It’s also the return of Roberto Alagna to Paris; he sings Paolo Il Bello opposite Svetla Vassilieva in the title role.

Giancarlo Del Monaco directs, Daniel Oren conducts. (In repertory from Jan. 31 to Feb. 21.)

Later, the opera will continue Guenter Kraemer’s staging of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle with “Siegfried” (March 1-30) and “Goetterdaemmerung” (June 3-30).

Information: http://www.operadeparis.fr or +33-1-7125-2423.

The most interesting event at the adventurous if underfunded Opera Comique probably will be the revival of Jean-Marie Villegier’s 1986 production of Lully’s “Atys” conducted, again, by William Christie. If you missed the Baroque work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, some 20 years ago, you can catch it from May 12 to 21.

Information: http://www.opera-comique.com or (from France only) 08-2501-0123.

Distorted Cranach

The first of the city’s major exhibitions is devoted to the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach. His curiously distorted mythological figures are on view at the Musee du Luxembourg from Feb. 9 to May 23.

Information: http://www.museeduluxembourg.fr.

Odilon Redon, the Symbolist lithographer and painter, best known for his weird creatures and dream-like scenes inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, stars at the Grand Palais from March 23 to June 20.

Information: http://www.rmn.fr.

Two days later, a retrospective of Kees Van Dongen opens at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The Dutchman, who spent most of his life in France, made his name with portraits of glamorous women and decadent scenes of high society. The show runs from March 25 to July 17.

Information: http://mam.paris.

The most important exhibition promises to be the Manet retrospective at the Musee d’Orsay, the first in almost 30 years (April 5-July 3).

Information: http://www.musee-orsay.fr.

Streetcar Desire

For the first time in its 330-year-old history, the Comedie-Francaise will stage a U.S. play -- Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Lee Breuer, co-founder of the experimental Mabou Mines theater company, directs, which means that main characters Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois may have an unorthodox experience (in repertory from Feb. 5 to June 2).

Later, another foreign classic will be admitted into the venerable institution, Brecht-Weill’s “The Threepenny Opera” (April 2-July 19). Laurent Pelly directs.

The funniest production at the Comedie-Francaise is Feydeau’s “Un Fil a la Patte” (in repertory until June 18).

Information: http://www.comedie-francaise.fr or (from France only) 08-2510-1680.

The most fascinating contemporary play is “Taking Care of Baby” at the Theatre National de la Colline. It’s a pseudo-documentary about a disturbed woman (Aurelie Edeline), who has killed her two babies, and her ambiguous relationship with her mother (Olivia Willaumez), a slick politician.

In 2009, Dennis Kelly, the U.K. author of the piece, was proclaimed “Playwright of the Year” by German critics. The play runs through Feb. 5.

Information: http://www.colline.fr or +33-1-4462-5252.

(Jorg von Uthmann is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Jorg von Uthmann in Paris at uthmann@wanadoo.fr.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

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