martes, 21 de mayo de 2013

Tutta la vita è mar – Josef Mysliveček’s Olimpiade at Caën Theatre

Photo: Olympiade©Hana-Smejkalová
Suzanne Daumann
There is still chance to see this production at: Opéra de Dijon, France : May 22, 24. Grand Théâtre du Luxembourg : June 4,5
L’Olimpiade: The title of this lovely opera (libretto by Metastasio around 1733, composed by numerous other composers and premiered in the Mysliveček version in 1778) is somewhat misleading: it is not about a sports event, although that has a part to play in the plot, it is about love and death and deception: a Cretan king named Clistene, whom the oracle has predicted that his son would try to murder him has given the order that this son should be abandoned in the sea. 25 years later, this same king promises his daughter to whoever should win the Olympic games. The prince of Crete Licida has come to Greece in order to win the contest and the princess whom he has fallen in love with at first sight. Not feeling too sure of his sportive invincibility however, he asks his best friend Megacle to enter the games under his name. Megacle, whose life the prince has saved earlier, accepts, not knowing that Licida is out to win the princess Aristaea. And Licida doesn’t know that Megacle and Aristaea love each other. And then there is Argene, a Cretan lady, who is in love with Licida and followed him incognito … All those stories of love and loyalty and friendship, are marvellously illustrated by Myslivečk’s music, full of spirit and surprises. One of the most interesting features might be the equal musical power of richly orchestrated accompagnato recitatives and arias. Baroque the structure may be, but the musical language announces the classical era.  This new co-production of the Prague National Theatre, Caën Theatre, Dijon Opera and Luxembourg Theatres,  unites all the elements of a perfect show: The Ensemble 1704 with its sweet and golden sound are lead by Václav Luks, and bring this music to life, following the score into the most intricate nuances, driving forwards and onwards, holding back if need be, to make us hold our breath, and love and fear and vibrate with the characters on the stage. An excellent cast of singers, who brilliantly master the demanding coloratura, give life and soul to those characters. They are assisted and guided by the magic stage direction of Ursel Hermann. The set by Hartmut Schörghofer is simple and very effective: a dark green marble floor with an inlaid labyrinth, a few changing features in its centre, like a table for indoor spaces and an olive tree for the forest, the whole surrounded by hanging green curtains that open at will, and a corridor that leads somewhere behind the scenes – it doesn’t need more.  
Strong symbols like fire and smoke, simple and colourful costumes speak for themselves and help the spectator to understand the identity and frame of mind of the characters. In this production, Myslivečk’s original overture has been replaced by an extract of his “Passion of Christ”, illustrated on the scene by the first appearance of the choir. Composed of only four singers, who are dressed in the green of the “forest”, wearing bowler hats and white make-up, the choir are a character in its own right, observing mostly in silence, sometimes leading the characters on, or holding them back, sometimes commenting among themselves, sometimes just poking a head through the vegetable curtain surrounding the scene. The presence of this choir gives a really magical touch to the whole show: it is so deeply symbolic of our being just balloted on the sea of our emotions, as Amintas puts it in his aria: the remarkable tenor Jaroslav Březina interprets the uncle of Licida with a generous voice, effortless in the highest pianissimo, full of genuine paternal tenderness for his wayward adoptive son. Licida is really the son of Clistene, interpreted by Johannes Chum, tenor, intelligently and wisely until the very depth of the child-murdering father. His daughter Aristaea, is sung by the lovely soprano Simona Houda-Šaturová. Raffaella Milanesi, soprano, gives depth and energy to the conflicts of Megacle, who has to choose between love and friendship, and then has to pull his choices through. Argane, who loves Licida, is interpreted by Sophie Harms, soprano, with lovely abandon in love and anger. She sets the finale in motion by appraising Clistene of the trick played by Licida, who is banished as a result, and then tries to kill Clistene, thus fulfilling the prophecy. In the end however, Licida is recognized as Clistene’s child. But happy end and family reunion don’t take place: the original final chorus having been lost, it has been replaced by a Gluck aria from his “Ezio” in which Licida expresses lots of mixed feelings. Tehila Nini Goldstein, soprano, plays the dashing and thoughtless young man with fire and spirit, and she has the last words that leave us full of doubts about the further relationship between father and son. What a delightful evening: lovely music, wonderful singing, deep questions and no answers, that’s as it should be.    

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