Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Classical Opera/The Mozartists celebrate 20 years of music-making

Classical Opera celebrated 20 years of music-making and story-telling with a characteristically ambitious and eclectic sequence of musical works at the Barbican Hall. Themes of creation and renewal were to the fore, and after a first half comprising a variety of vocal works and short poems, ‘Classical Opera’ were succeeded by their complementary alter ego, ‘The Mozartists’, in the second part of the concert for a rousing performance of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony - a work described by Page as ‘in many ways the most iconic work in the repertoire’.

Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice opened the 2017–18 season at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Michelle DeYoung, Mahler Symphony no 3 London

The Third Coming ! Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Mahler Symphony no 3 with the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall with Michelle DeYoung, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys’ Choir. It was live streamed worldwide, an indication of just how important this concert was, for it marks the Philharmonia's 34-year relationship with Salonen.

King Arthur at the Barbican: a semi-opera for the 'Brexit Age'

Purcell’s and Dryden’s King Arthur: or the British Worthy presents ‘problems’ for directors. It began life as a propaganda piece, Albion and Albanius, in 1683, during the reign of Charles II, but did not appear on stage as King Arthur until 1691 when William of Orange had ascended to the British Throne to rule as William III alongside his wife Mary and the political climate had changed significantly.

Anne Schwanewilms sings Schreker, Schubert, Liszt and Korngold

On a day when events in Las Vegas cast a shadow over much of the news this was not the most comfortable recital to sit through for many reasons. The chosen repertoire did, at times, feel unduly heavy - and very Germanic - but it was also unevenly sung.

The Life to Come: a new opera by Louis Mander and Stephen Fry

It began ‘with a purely obscene fancy of a Missionary in difficulties’. So E.M. Forster wrote to Siegfried Sassoon in August 1923, of his short story ‘The Life to Come’ - the title story of a collection that was not published until 1972, two years after Forster’s death.

Aida opens the season at ENO

Director Phelim McDermott’s new Aida at ENO seems to have been conceived more in terms of what it will look like rather than what the opera is or might be ‘about’. And, it certainly does look good. Designer Tom Pye - with whom McDermott worked for ENO’s Akhnaten last year (alongside his other Improbable company colleague, costume designer Kevin Pollard) - has again conjured striking tableaux and eye-catching motifs, and a colour scheme which balances sumptuous richness with shadow and mystery.

La Traviata in San Francisco

A beautifully sung Traviata in British stage director John Copley’s 1987 production, begging the question is this grand old (30 years) production the SFO mise en scène for all times.

The Judas Passion: Sally Beamish and David Harsent offer new perspectives

Was Judas a man ‘both vile and justifiably despised: an agent of the Devil, or a man who God-given task was to set in train an event that would be the salvation of Humankind’? This is the question at the heart of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, commissioned jointly by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco.

Choral at Cadogan: The Tallis Scholars open a new season

As The Tallis Scholars processed onto the Cadogan Hall platform, for the opening concert of this season’s Choral at Cadogan series, there were some unfamiliar faces among its ten members - or faces familiar but more usually seen in other contexts.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2017, Millennium Park, Chicago

As a prelude to the 2017-18 season Lyric Opera of Chicago presented its annual concert, Stars of Lyric Opera at Millennium Park, during the last weekend. A number of those who performed in this event will be featured in roles during the coming season.

Die Zauberflöte at the ROH: radiant and eternal

Watching David McVicar’s 2003 production of Die Zauberflöte at the Royal Opera House - its sixth revival - for the third time, I was struck by how discerningly John MacFarlane’s sumptuous designs, further enhanced by Paule Constable’s superbly evocative lighting, communicate the dense and rich symbolism of Mozart’s Singspiel.

Fantasy in Philadelphia: The Wake World

Composer and librettist David Hertzberg’s magical mystery tour that is The Wake World opened to a cheering sold out audience that was clearly enraptured with its magnificent artistic achievement.

A Mysterious Lucia at Forest Lawn

On September 10, 2017, Pacific Opera Project (POP) presented Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a beautiful outdoor setting at Forest Lawn. POP audiences enjoy casual seating with wine, water, and finger foods at each table. General and Artistic Director Josh Shaw greeted patrons in a “blood stained” white wedding suit. Since Lucia is a Scottish opera, it opened with an elegant bagpipe solo calling members of the audience to their seats.

This is Rattle: Blazing Berlioz at the Barbican Hall

Blazing Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust at the Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Bryan Hymel, Christopher Purves, Karen Cargill, Gabor Bretz, The London Symphony Orchestra and The London Symphony Chorus directed by Simon Halsey, Rattle's chorus master of choice for nearly 35 years. Towards the end, the Tiffin Boys' Choir, the Tiffin Girls' Choir and Tiffin Children's Choir (choirmaster James Day) filed into the darkened auditorium to sing The Apotheosis of Marguerite, their voices pure and angelic, their faces shining. An astonishingly theatrical touch, but absolutely right.

Moved Takes on Philadelphia Headlines

There‘s a powerful new force in the opera world and its name is O17.

Philly Flute’s Fast and Furious Frills

If you never thought opera could make your eyes cross with visual sensory over load, you never saw Opera Philadelphia’s razzle-dazzle The Magic Flute.

At War With Philadelphia

Enterprising Opera Philadelphia has included a couple of intriguing site-specific events in their O17 Festival line-up.

The Mozartists at the Wigmore Hall

Three years into their MOZART 250 project, Classical Opera have launched a new venture, The Mozartists, which is designed to allow the company to broaden its exploration of the concert and symphonic works of Mozart and his contemporaries.

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):