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Photo: Jean-Claude Lother

The Times – Sunday May 31st,


Exploding violins, pistols, ghostly hands hovering over a city skyline: from the opening credits, it’s clear this French drama is not going to be an understated, piano affair.

Marie-Sophie Ferdane plays Hélène Barizet, returning to Paris to become conductor of the Philharmonia after 20 years in New York. She is a controversial appointment, disturbing the orchestra’s hierarchies by promoting a young violinist (Lina El Arabi) and making more enemies than she can shake a baton at.

She also has her own demons – a sick mother, her own looming health crisis – not to mention a cheating husband and a small and inevitably significant gun that she keeps in her dressing room. Like everything else in this show, the sexism she faces is not subtly handled, but there is enough psychosexual turmoil to ensure Philharmonia is swept along by its own overheated momentum.

Hélène is back in Paris after 20 years to take over as head of the Philharmonia, a national orchestra in turmoil since the sudden death of its previous conductor. Hired against the advice of the director and musicians, Hélène, a woman with unusual methods, has one season to prove her worth and save an orchestra known as “the maestro killer.”

Hélène has no time to lose–she lives every day as if it were her last. She immediately replaces the first violin, the pillar of the orchestra, with a 20-year old tutti player from the third row who reminds Hélène of a younger version of herself: music is her entire world, passion her driving force. She is determined to make this young violin prodigy her successor. But what can she pass down when all she wants to do is break with her past?

A tense and moving psychological thriller, Philharmonia reveals the genius (and secrets) of a maestro with a past that’s catching up with her, and a curse she’s trying to escape. Will music be able to save our heroine–and the 120 musicians under her baton–from sickness...and death?

The premiere pulled in a very impressive 3.51 million viewers, reaching a 15.9% audience share—coming in just behind TF1 that drew 3.67 million viewers for a 16.6% share with Criminal Minds.

Drama > Thriller

Thriller / Series
Producer(s) & Channel(s):
Merlin productions & France 2
Louis Choquette
Marine Gacem & Clara Bourreau
Marie-Sophie Ferdane, Lina EL Arabi, Tomer Sisley, François Vincentelli, Laurent Bateau, Charlie Bruneau, Tom Novembre
English / French
Available rights:
French-speaking territories / Worldwide