We are proud to be embarking on a close relationship with maestro Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir to present a landmark semi-staged series of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas – Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, I’Incoronazione di Poppea and L’Orfeo.
Sir John Eliot Gardiner has lived with Monteverdi’s music since childhood and now he combines his internationally renowned historical insight into period performance with the expert touch of the musician to create recordings and concerts of the highest standards and regard. He is, quite simply, a master of Monteverdi. Who better to spearhead an ambitious Europe-wide project to mark the composer’s 450th birthday?
Together with his peerless choir and period instrument ensemble plus a stellar cast of soloists including Krystian Adam, Hana Blažíková, Kangmin Justin Kim, Lucile Richardot, and Furio Zanasi, the maestro will take the audience on a voyage through nail-biting myth and murky Roman history.
Colston Hall is thrilled to be presenting the UK premiere of these operas, with other venues on the tour including Venice, Lucerne, Barcelona and Paris. For three nights in April/May 2017, Bristol will be at the heart of the classical music world.
While still an undergraduate Sir John Eliot Gardiner famously conducted a landmark performance of the Vespers of 1610 that inaugurated the internationally celebrated choir that bears the composer’s name to this day; and Monteverdi has been a constantly enriching companion since. Their performances and recordings span the intimacy of the madrigals, the ceremonial splendour of the music for St Mark’s Venice, and the three surviving operas that seal Monteverdi’s genius.
Drawing together Gardiner’s peerless choir and period instrument ensemble plus a stellar cast of soloists, the maestro squares up to an operatic legacy with a trio of semi-stagings. Like Mozart, who transforms the ancient past into something forever contemporary, and can convey what makes people tick in the twist of a cadence, the intensification of a mood, or the interplay of comic light and tragic shade, at the dawn of opera, Monteverdi is its brightest sun, its wake-up call to the art of the infinitely possible.
Monteverdi 450 starts here.
2017 will be an important milestone in Western cultural history – one that marks the birth of Claudio Monteverdi, one of the founders of opera, who transformed the miniature form of the madrigal into a full-scale music drama. Sir John Eliot Gardiner who formed his Monteverdi Choir more than 50 years ago with a performance of the Venetian composer’s Vespers, is dedicating a year to the vision 16th century composer. In addition to the operas, the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestras will be performing the Vespers at Basilica dei Frari, Venice, as well as working alongside distinguished musicologists and experts in Monteverdi both during the Accademia Monteverdiana and the anniversary year.
As an observer of human nature in all its forms, Monteverdi presents the full spectrum of character traits from the purest to the most depraved, obsessed and corrupt. Monteverdi’s operas invite direct comparison with the greatest artists and scientists of his age – Shakespeare, Galileo, Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian and Tintoretto. Above all, it is Monteverdi’s talent for communicating emotion through music that is the driving force of his operas, which have not lost their power through the centuries.
As Gardiner explains:
The full unchanging gamut of human emotions – bewildering, passionate, uncomfortable and sometimes uncontrollable – form the subtext of all of Monteverdi’s surviving musical dramas. More often than not, he shows a deep empathy for his characters – including the less salubrious ones – just as his contemporary Shakespeare does. Both revelled in juxtaposing tragedy with lowlife comedy. Both men lived on the cusp of exciting, and dangerous, cultural worlds. By performing the trilogy in consecutive performances we hope to take audiences on a voyage – from the pastoral world to the court and the city, from myth to political history, from innocence to corruption, from a portrait of man subject to the whim of the gods, to a hero imprisoned by his human condition, and finally to a dual portrait of mad lovers, uncontrolled in their ambition and lust. Who is the true victor in the end? Perhaps the music.
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Starting in the realm of the demigods, charismatic musician Orpheus descends to the underworld in an attempt to bring his beloved Eurydice back to life. His journey proves fruitless, as he cannot prevent himself from looking back at Eurydice as she follows him back to the living world and he loses her forever to the world of the dead.
From the pastoral world of Orpheus, Monteverdi moves to the Homeric world of Odysseus in the aftermath of the Trojan War. When Ulysses, King of Ithaca, returns home at the end of a ten-year journey he finds his faithful queen, Penelope, besieged by a trio of unctuous suitors and urged by her advisors to accept a new husband. Ulysses (with both the help and hindrance of the quarrelling gods) eventually convinces her of his true identity, routs the three suitors and regains his kingdom.
Monteverdi’s final opera is a celebration of carnal love and ambition triumphing at the expense of reason and morality. Set in a world of shifting alliances, formed and dissolved in the attempt to achieve amorous goals and social ambitions, the opera focuses on anti-heroine Poppea’s ruthless rise from Nero’s mistress to his acknowledged queen. In an opera of stark contrasts, Monteverdi prepares us to despise Nero and Poppea as they are satirised by two disgruntled sentry guards, and yet the ensuing portrayal of the two lovers as they exchange and entwine musical lines leaves us under their irresistible spell.
Orfeo cast includes:
Krystian Adam (Orfeo), Hana Blažíková (La Musica/Euridice), Lucile Richardot (Messaggera), Anna Dennis (Ninfa), Kangmin Justin Kim (Speranza), Francisco Fernandez Rueda (Pastore I), Gareth Traseder (Pastore II/Spirito II/Echo), Michal Czerniawski (Pastore III), Gianluca Buratto (Caronte/Plutone), Francesca Boncompagni (Proserpina), Peter Davoren (Spirito I), Furio Zanasi (Apollo)
Ulisse cast includes:
Furio Zanasi (Ulisse), Lucille Richardot (Penelope), Hana Blažíková (Minerva/Fortuna), Krystian Adam (Telemaco), Francisco Fernandez Rueda (Eumete), Robert Burt (Iro), Zachary Wilder (Eurimaco), Anna Dennis (Melanto), John Taylor Ward (Tempo/Giove), Francesca Boncompagni (Giunone), Silvia Frigato (Amore), Carlo Vistoli (Umana fragilità), Gianluca Buratto (Nettuno/Antinoo), Michal Czerniawski (Pisandro), Gareth Treseder (Anfinomo)
Poppea cast includes:
Hana Blažíková (Poppea/Drusilla/ Virtù), Kangmin Justin Kim (Nerone), Carlo Vistoli (Ottone), Gianluca Buratto (Seneca), Lucile Richardot (Arnalta), Michal Czerniawski (Nutrice), Silvia Frigato (Amore/Valletto), Anna Dennis (Fortuna), John Taylor Ward (Mercurio/Littore), Furio Zanasi (Soldato I/Soldato II/Liberto), Zachary Wilder (Lucano), Francesca Boncompagni (Damigella), Lucile Richardot (Venere)
Bristol cast to be confirmed. All cast listings are subject to change.
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Brought to Bristol by Bristol Music Consortium, a partnership between Bristol Music Trust and St. George’s Bristol.