Every two years the Troupe de Serreaux-Dessus an ensemble of amateur and semi-professional actors performs a quality theatre show under the summer sky. The stage is set on the backyard of the house of Antoine and Henriette Nicolas, winemakers with over forty years of experience producing good white wine in the hills of Begnins, overlooking Lake Geneva (Lac Léman).
L’Amour des Trois Oranges is the latest edition of the theater project that dates to 2001. The story, based on a play by Carlo Gozzi, has been adapted and modernized by professional writer-director-actor Christophe Nicolas. A king is looking for a cure to his hypochondriac prince son and finds that laughter is the prescribed solution to heal his condition. But a spell makes him fall in love with three oranges that he must conquer to avoid pain. After deflecting his enemies and trusting his friends, he gets cured and finds a princess to be the love of his life.
Maintaining the spirit of its Commedia dell’Arte roots, director Nicolas used masks for all the performers, many of which he designed and built. The masks are truly wonderful and give the audience the opportunity to appreciate in person an almost forgotten art.
The production of each play takes over a year from inception, writing-adaptation, casting, rehearsals, and performances. For L’Amour des Trois Oranges, rehearsals began twice a week in January until its first performance on June 13. Most members of the troupe come from the region and have been performing together for over a decade.
L’Amour des Trois Oranges is the third piece I have watched. The plays are so well done that it’s hard to believe the actors are not all professional. That has a lot to do with Christophe’s direction and experience. It is a beautiful project that engages the local communities and produces an excellent theatre evening. The spectacle is preceded and followed by an evening of food and wine.
I have a special relationship with the owners of the vineyard and the director. Christophe and I were roomates in Hoboken, New Jersey during our studies in the early 1980s. Thanks to him I came to this part of Switzerland 37 years ago to work in this very same farm, managed by his brother Antoine. I harvested or picked the grapes, made wine, drank a lot of it, met wonderful people, made some money, and had the time of my life. The co-workers were gregarious folks from Italy, Spain, France, Argentina, and Switzerland, all under the supervision and care of Antoine and Henriette. It was during this trip that I first met Petra, except she was not picking grapes but singing in a punk band in Zürich.
As I walked toward the farm to see L’Amour des Trois Oranges, I reminisced about the early autumn days when I picked grapes and took the wonderful view of Lake Geneva with Mont Blanc in the horizon. Then the idea occured to me to do the vendanges, (harvest) again in three years to celebrate the 40th anniversary of my first one. Only thing is that Antoine and Henriette will no longer be managing the farm in 2022 because they are retiring soon. They played a major role in making the experience special. I’ll have to think about it, but it certainly is a very enticing thought.