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Premiere of Alessandro Stradella's opera CIRCE

Istorinės operos diena Valdovų rūmuose 2019

7 September 2019, 19.00–20.30

Early Opera Day at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania 2019

Events Hall

Composer – Alessandro Stradella (1639–1682)
Libretto – Giovanni Filippo Apolloni (1620–1688)
Artistic Director and Conductor – Rodrigo Calveyra
Direction and Shadow Theatre – Juhyun and Sunyoung Choi
Assistant Artistic Director – Davide Pozzi
Costume Design – Janina Zibireva

Canto Fiorito International Early Music Ensemble:

Circe – Renata Dubinskaitė (mezzo soprano)
Zeffiro – Ieva Gaidamavičiūtė (soprano)
Algido – Nerijus Masevičius (bass)

Baroque violin – Ryo Terakado
Cornetto, recorders – Rodrigo Calveyra
Archlute – Shizuko Noiri
Baroque harp – Mara Galassi
Viola da gamba – Kaori Uemura
Double bass – Filippo Calascibetta
Harpsichord, organ – Davide Pozzi

The third opera to be staged at the Palace of the Grand Dukes in Vilnius was Circe delusa in 1648, based on the libretto by Virgilio Puccitelli (the author of the music remains unknown). Its plot idolised Ulysses, who did not succumb to the charms of the sorceress Circe and managed to flee her island, still as the loyal husband of Penelope. This opera was staged to mark the arrival of the second wife of the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania Władysław Vasa, Marie Louise Gonzaga, in Vilnius (later, a second performance was held as part of the wedding of a member of the Radziwiłł family). The opera features panegyric elements that honour the ruler's wife, who hailed from the famous Italian Gonzaga family.

Operas of a similar plot were common in the 17th century. The sorceress and witch Circe was considered especially knowledgeable in all manner of magical potions and elixirs, using her charms to force men to fall in love with her, transforming her enemies into beasts. Many 17th-century composers exploited the character of Circe the sorceress when writing operas about the powerful magic of love. Alessandro Stradella's mini-opera (serenata) Circe was created twenty years before it was staged in Vilnius – it was commissioned by Princess Olympia Aldobrandini of Florence in 1668 to commemorate an important occasion in the Medici family. Like Circe delusa, this work was a panegyric to the renowned Italian family, which was developed by harnessing myths about Circe and other characters.

Alessandro Stradella was an immensely influential 17th-century composer who collaborated with the most famous poets of the day and created over three hundred works of various genres. The only reason he is less well known today is because his fame was later overwhelmed by the eminent Late Baroque masters Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli. Stradella was a pioneer of the concerto grosso style, he wrote operas, oratorios and cantatas, and his work had an influence on Italian music masters such as Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli, while Georg Friedrich Händel himself borrowed fragments of Stradella's pieces to use in his own works.

Stradella's music is known for its particularly intricate, gentle melodies, which are sometimes accompanied by rather bold harmonies, uncharacteristic of music from the mid-17th century.

The music for the opera Circe delusa has not survived, nor is the creator's name known, but we do know that the first operas staged at the Palace of the Grand Dukes were created based on Italian music traditions. Historic Opera Day is being marked this year at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania with a performance of an opera by the famous Italian composer Alessandro Stradella, which was created at a similar time and which followed a similar plot. This occasion will also be the first staged performance of a work by Stradella in Lithuania, and our first comprehensive introduction to this significant Italian composer. His original, smaller-scale work Circe shall be enhanced with instrumental and vocal fragments of other opuses by this composer, as well as the music by Antonio Cesti, a collaborator of the opera libretto's author Giovanni Filippo Apolloni, and other major opera creators Claudio Monteverdi and Francesco Cavalli, which serves to better reveal the contrasting characters of the main roles. This musical material was selected and combined into an harmonious work by the artistic director of this performance and the Canto Fiorito ensemble, conductor Rodrigo Calveyra. The music in this opera will be performed by the Canto Fiorito vocalists and a chamber orchestra comprising of excellent European Baroque music performers playing period instruments.

This staged performance of Circe has been created by incorporating the shadow theatre tradition, so often overlooked in our country. Shadow theatre is an early form of story-telling played out using specially-made flat shapes and figures held up between a screen and a light-source. Moving the figures and the light-source produces various impressive stage effects. Shadow theatre emerged in ancient China well before our era, reaching Europe via Italy in the 17th century, precisely in Stradella's epoch, where it went on to become highly popular in France, Germany and England.

The shadow theatre that will be part of this opera will not only feature figures created especially for this production, but also singers. The shadow theatre and opera stage direction is by the South Korean artist, illustrator and graphic artist Juhyun Choi, who is currently living and working in France, where together with her sister, Sunyoung Choi, the duo create experimental shadow theatre performances. Their work has been presented at various art festivals in Europe – in Brussels, Ljubljana, Poitiers, Rouen, Nantes, etc.

The visual direction of this opera production will combine shadow theatre and the mechanical equipment used in the performance, reminiscent of the dawn of cinematography, into one complete event. Audiences shall witness lighting effects where different elements interplay, creating dream-like images that appear to drift between the micro and macro worlds. The templates, created from plastic packaging, are like a shadow of our time, accompanying the audience on a journey to the world of ancient Greek mythology, while the interplay of light and dark pays homage to the great Italian masters of chiaroscuro – Caravage, Gentileschi and Furini – all contemporaries of Stradella.

Purchase tickets here

Please refrain from bringing pre-school-aged children to the event. They and their families are warmly invited to attend educational events at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.


2019-09-02
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