Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Glyndebourne presents Richard Jones's new staging of La damnation de Faust

Oratorio? Opera? Cantata? A debate about the genre to which Berlioz’s ‘dramatic legend’, La damnation de Faust, should be assigned could never be ‘resolved’.

Hampstead Garden Opera presents Partenope-on-sea

“Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea!” And, it was off to the Victorian seaside that we went for Hampstead Garden Opera’s production of Handel’s Partenope - not so much for a stroll along the prom, rather for boisterous battles on the beach and skirmishes by the shore.

Henze's Phaedra: Linbury Theatre, ROH

A song of love and death, loss and renewal. Opera was born from the ambition of Renaissance humanists to recreate the oratorical and cathartic power of Greek tragedy, so it is no surprise that Greek myths have captivated composers of opera, past and present, offering as they do an opportunity to engage with the essential human questions in contexts removed from both the sacred and the mundane.

Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II - a world premiere

Is it in any sense aspirational to imitate - or even to try to create something original - based on one of Stockhausen’s works? This was a question I tried to grapple with at the world premiere of Actress x Stockhausen Sin {x} II.

The BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music join forces for Handel's Israel in Egypt

The biblical account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is the defining event of Jewish history. By contrast, Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt has struggled to find its ‘identity’, hampered as it is by what might be termed the ‘Part 1 conundrum’, and the oratorio has not - despite its repute and the scholarly respect bestowed upon it - consistently or fully satisfied audiences, historic or modern.

Measha Brueggergosman: The Art of Song – Ravel to John Cage

A rather charming story recently appeared in the USA of a nine-year old boy who, at a concert given by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, let out a very audible “wow” at the end of Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music. I mention this only because music – whether you are neurotypical or not – leads to people, of any age, expressing themselves in concerts relative to the extraordinary power of the music they hear. Measha Brueggergosman’s recital very much had the “wow” factor, and on many distinct levels.

World premiere of Cecilia McDowall's Da Vinci Requiem

The quincentennial of the death Leonardo da Vinci is one of the major events this year – though it doesn’t noticeably seem to be acknowledged in new music being written for this.

Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear at Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

In 1982, while studying in Germany, I had the good fortune to see Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear sung in München by the original cast, which included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Júlia Várady and Helga Dernesch. A few years later, I heard it again in San Francisco, with Thomas Stewart in the title role. Despite the luxury casting, the harshly atonal music—filled with quarter-tones, long note rows, and thick chords—utterly baffled my twenty-something self.

Berlioz’s Requiem at the Concertgebouw – earthshakingly stupendous

It was high time the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra programmed Hector Berlioz’s Grande Messe des morts. They hadn’t performed it since 1989, and what better year to take it up again than in 2019, the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s death?

Matthew Rose and Friends at Temple Church

I was very much looking forward to this concert at Temple Church, curated by bass Matthew Rose and designed to celebrate music for voice commissioned by the Michael Cuddigan Trust, not least because it offered the opportunity to listen again to compositions heard recently - some for the first time - in different settings, and to experience works discussed coming to fruition in performance.

Handel's Athalia: London Handel Festival

There seems little to connect the aesthetics of French neoclassical theatre of the late-seventeenth century and English oratorio of the early-eighteenth. But, in the early 1730s Handel produced several compositions based on Racine’s plays, chief among them his Israelite-oratorios, Esther (1732) and Athalia (1733).

Ravel’s L’heure espagnole: London Symphony Orchestra conducted by François-Xavier Roth

Although this concert was devoted to a single composer, Ravel, I was initially a little surprised by how it had been programmed. Thematically, all the works had the essence of Spain running through them - but chronologically they didn’t logically follow on from each other.

Breaking the Habit: Stile Antico at Kings Place

Renaissance patronage was a phenomenon at once cultural, social, political and economic. Wealthy women played an important part in court culture and in religious and secular life. In particular, music, musical performances and publications offered a female ruler or aristocrat an important means of ‘self-fashioning’. Moreover, such women could exercise significant influence on the shaping of vernacular taste.

The Secrets of Heaven: The Orlando Consort at Wigmore Hall

Leonel Power, Bittering, Roy Henry [‘Henry Roi’?], John Pyamour, John Plummer, John Trouluffe, Walter Lambe: such names are not likely to be well-known to audiences but alongside the more familiar John Dunstaple, they were members of the generation of Englishmen during the Middle Ages whose compositions were greatly admired by their fellow musicians on the continent.

Manitoba Opera: The Barber of Seville

Manitoba Opera capped its season on a high note with its latest production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, sung in the key of goofiness that has inspired even a certain “pesky wabbit,” a.k.a. Bugs Bunny’s The Rabbit of Seville.

Handel and the Rival Queens

From Leonardo vs. Michelangelo to Picasso vs. Matisse; from Mozart vs. Salieri to Reich v. Glass: whether it’s Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi or Herbert von Karajan vs. Wilhelm Furtwängler, the history of culture is also a history of rivalries nurtured and reputations derided - more often by coteries and aficionados than by the artists themselves.

Britten's Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House

“Billy always attracted me, of course, the radiant young figure; I felt there was going to be quite an opportunity for writing nice dark music for Claggart; but I must admit that Vere, who has what seems to me the main moral problem of the whole work, round [him] the drama was going to centre.”

Cool beauty in Dutch National Opera’s Madama Butterfly

It is hard to imagine a more beautifully sung Cio-Cio-San than Elena Stikhina’s.

Kurt Weill’s Street Scene

Kurt Weill’s “American opera,” Street Scene debuted this past weekend in the Kay Theatre at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, with a diverse young cast comprised of students and alumni of the Maryland Opera Studio (MOS).

Handel's Brockes-Passion: The Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall

Perhaps it is too fanciful to suggest that the German poet Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1680-1747) was the Metastasio of Hamburg?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Dominique Daye Lim, Lila Powell and Emalie Huber [Photo courtesy of Le Château de la Voix]
28 Aug 2015

La Púrpura de la Rosa

Advertised in the program as the first opera written in the New World, La Púrpura de la Rosa (PR) was premiered in 1701 in Lima (Peru), but more than the historical feat, true or not, accounts for the piece’s interest.

La Púrpura de la Rosa (“The Blood of the Rose”)

A review by Iker Garcia

Above: Dominique Daye Lim, Lila Powell and Emalie Huber [Photo courtesy of Le Château de la Voix]

 

For those versed in Golden Age Spanish literature the name Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681) will of course be familiar, but Calderón lovers and even connoisseurs are likely to raise an eyebrow at seeing the man who penned La Vida es Sueño (“Life is a Dream”), a philosophical tragicomedy solidly established in the canon of Western drama, become an opera librettist (English readers are invited to imagine Shakespeare or a quasi-Shakespeare writing an opera libretto to experience an analogous sense of puzzlement at the sight of the program). The conundrum, as Louise K. Stein explains in her excellent PR entry in mundoclasico.com (the introduction to her PR critical edition for Iberautor Promociones Culturales), goes back to 1659, when Calderón was indeed commissioned the libretto for Philip IV's court celebration of the Peace of the Pyrenees and worked together with Juan Hidalgo (1614-1685), the first person who set music to the text. All this happened in Madrid (Spain). To get to 1701 and Lima we need to go through several revivals of the opera (1679, 1690, and 1694, according to Stein) and the commission of the opera’s production by the Viceroy of Peru (probably in view of its success) to commemorate the 18th birthday of King Philip V and first anniversary of his succession to the throne. The composer of the Lima performance was Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco (1644-1728), born in Spain and later a resident of today’s Peru for several decades, a musician who, according to Stein, might have been a pupil of Hidalgo (it’s not clear from Stein’s entry what exactly motivated a fresh composer and thus score for the Lima performance, but apparently Torrejón left intact much of Hidalgo’s original music, so credit should be given to both for the final score).

The play and music themselves deserve more commentary that we can provide here (the reader is invited to consult Stein’s article for supplementary information). A highly allegorical text, PR tells the story of the love between Venus (Roman goddess of love) and Adonis (a handsome youth), which prompts the jealousy of Venus’ lover Mars (Roman god of war), and his attempt at revenge. At the end Mars partially succeeds, as Adonis is killed by a boar made vicious by Mars’ aids, which prompts Venus’ despair at the sight of his lover’s blood, none other than the “púrpura” of the opera’s title:

Belona:

y así, ¿para qué has de ver

que humana púrpura corre?

Todas:

Tanto, que de ella animadas,

cada flor es un Adonis

[Belona: And so, why do you want to see / / how human blood is running?

All: So much blood, that enlivened by it, / / every flower is an Adonis]

(PR, v. 1356-1359)

In between, characters like Jealousy, Disillusion, Fear, or Anger, among others, have tried to impart Mars a few lessons of prudential wisdom, apparently to no avail; in the end love triumphs and Jupiter elevates Venus and Adonis to Mount Olympus. The story, surprising for the candid celebration of erotic love in such a religious-minded author as Calderón, is accompanied by music that incorporates Latin American melodies and rhythms into an overall European dramatic and harmonic structure, with which one can establish useful comparisons with Renaissance or baroque composers such as Cabezón, Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, or Couperin. The opera itself (that is, the story and the music) can helpfully be compared with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.

As for the performance, Le Château de la Voix deserves credit on various grounds. First for its choice of a little-known opera that showcases a strong and interesting tradition not seldom ignored in histories of classical music, i.e. the Spanish (a fortiori, the colonial Spanish). Second for having assembled a highly efficient orchestra composed of faculty members of the University of Illinois School of Music (continuo group of harpsichord, viola de gamba, guitars, lutes, and harp). Finally, for having coached a diverse group of young vocal performers whose lack of expertise was amply made up for by their enthusiasm and attunement to the intricacies of the Spanish baroque not unusually convoluted ways of expressing artistic emotion.

A final linguistic note: the Real Academia Española dictionary accepts “púrpura” as “human blood” (7 th entry; poetical use), but in current Spanish the word routinely means “purple” (the color) or, alternatively and more technically, “purple dye murex” (a particular variety of medium-size sea snail), which is the 1st entry given by the RAE. So much as an indication that for Spanish speakers (at any rate present-day ones) the expression “la púrpura de la rosa” still retains its original Baroque qualities.

Iker Garcia


Additional information:

Music by Tomás de Torrejon y Velasco (1644-1728)
Libretto by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681)
Saturday August 1 (7:30pm), Sunday August 2 (3pm), 2015, Smith Hall, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Le Château de la Voix (summer vocal Academy) accompanied by a period instrument orchestra

Click here for additional photos.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):