Nights at the Opera
Seattle Baroque OrchestraSaturday, April 20, 2013
8 pm (preconcert lecture by John Lenti at 7 pm)
Town Hall Seattle
Soprano Ellen Hargis, one of America’s premier early music singers, returns to Seattle for an evening of great scenes from Italian Baroque operas, including three different versions of the Orpheus myth as set by Monteverdi, Rossi, and Sartorio. The virtuoso strings of Seattle Baroque will set the stage for Ms. Hargis’ scenes with dramatic concertos by Vivaldi and Locatelli.
Notes on the Opera Excerpts by Ellen Hargis
One of the delights for a soprano in early music is the availability of operatic male roles written for high voices. I’ve had the pleasure of singing such rich characters as Adonis, the Emperor Nero, Cupid, and especially Orpheus, the renowned singer of Thrace. The story of Orpheus’ descent to the Underworld to retrieve his wife Eurydice from the kingdom of the dead is certainly one of our most beloved legends, and one especially dear to singers, who relate very personally to the power of the singing voice. Since this story was the subject of the first two operas ever written, it seemed a perfect choice for tonight’s program.
Because so many composers set the role of Orpheus for soprano or mezzo soprano (Landi, Sartorio, Gluck, and Rossi, among others), I decided to extend that possibility to Monteverdi’s Orfeo as well, and to bring the legend of Orpheus to our program this evening with excerpts from three settings of the tale. Two other tenor characters will make appearances sung in the soprano range, as it was common in the period for roles to be adapted for other singers by transposing up or down an octave. I’ve taken a little artistic license with the order of arias, but not with the order of the story – after all, a stock lament or comic song was often interpolated freely at the artist’s whim – and have added arias from the roles of Eurydice, Jove, the allegorical La Musica, and the comic mischief-maker Momo to fill in the story.
Taken from Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo of 1608, Antonio Sartorio’s L’Orfeo of 1672, and Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo of 1647, we will witness three episodes of the story, each with voices and plot twists particular to different librettos. We hope you enjoy this visit to Thrace!
From Monteverdi’s Orfeo: Music exhorts the audience to listen carefully to this new art form. Praising the nobility and virtue of her listeners, she also reminds them of her power to move the passions through music. Orpheus sings his pledge of love to his bride Eurydice, and then breaks into a lively dance-song reminding us of his long suffering before she returned his love.
From Sartorio’s Orfeo: Orpheus mistakenly believes that Eurydice is dallying with his brother, Aristeus. He sings of the bitter pangs of jealousy that lovers often suffer. Meanwhile, having been bitten by a poisonous snake while fleeing Aristeus’s pursuit, Eurydice has died. In his exhausted sleep, Orpheus hears the voice of Eurydice from the underworld begging him to come and save her with the power of his song. Orpheus implores Pluto to release her to return to the mortal world.
From Rossi’s Orfeo: Momus, the god of slander, reproaches Cupid for emasculating men in love, and charges him to change his ways if he really means to do good. Orpheus has failed to bring Eurydice out of the underworld, and implores all grief and sadness to leave with him, that she might not suffer there. Jove descends to declare that the lovers will live in eternity amongst the constellations, where all may admire them.
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