Co-Artistic Director Erin Helyard is looking forward to the 2015 Pinchgut Opera season, which will feature two unique repertoire operas and continue “… our vision to bring audiences glorious, unusual operatic experiences combining passion, technical and scholarly excellence” he said.
Helyard believes ‘there are so many neglected masterpieces …we are spoilt for choice’.
This year it will be Italian Antonio Vivaldi’s Bajazet and France’s Andre Gretry’s L’amant jalou, The Jealous Lover.
The company over their first decade has gradually built a loyal following, by not providing the usual opera experience for their audiences, but the extraordinary.
Passion and power are themes for the tragic opera Bajazet, which will be presented first during the winter season.
Rarely performed, Bajazet, was produced by Vivaldi for the 1735 Carnival season at Verona. This is its first performance in the Southern Hemisphere.
New Zealand’s bold and full-bodied bari-hunk Hadleigh Adams will return to grace the Pinchgut Opera stage in the title role.
Created by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) in 1735, this opera of three acts tells a tale of Beyazid I (1389-1402), Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, son of Sultan Suleiman (the Magnificent).
Beyazid 1 (Bajazet) was captured by the Emperor of the Uzbek Turks Tamerlane (1336-1405) who could be found seated on cushions on a raised dais in his ‘paradise garden’ in front of a fountain, from which jets of water fell into a basin, while on the surface red apples floated.
That is according to a description written by Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, one of the first European travellers to write about the paradise gardens he encountered when Henry III of Castille and Lyon sent him as an Ambassador to the court of Tamerlane at Samarkand in 1404.
The opera is a pasticcio of works by Vivaldi, a style unique to the 18th century music scene. This was when one composer would take on putting together an opera using some of his own compositions, as well as those by fellow composers.
18th century followers of opera loved the ‘exotic’ aspects of the east especially its costumes. This tale has a customarily complicated love element and the music is eloquently recitative and the score skillfully woven by Vivaldi into a work of great depth.
The music is a challenge for all, as Vivaldi demanded a great deal from his singers and players.
Vivaldi created his own arias for the good characters and basically used existing arias from other composers mainly for the villains of the piece.
One of the best-known Sposa son disprezzata was believed for a long time to have been by Italian composer Geminiano Giacomelli (1692-1749) for his opera La Merope of 1734.
Theatrically and musically passionate, this is one of fifty operas portrayed with poignant nobility and composed about the well-known rivalry between Tamerlane and Beyazid
The characters involved include, Asteria his daughter, who is loved by Tamerlane but who in turn is in love with Andronicus a Prince from Greece an ally of Tamerlane.
Then there is Irene, the jealous princess from Trebizond, who is promised in marriage to Tamerlane as well as the loyal Idaspe, friend to Andronicus.
In Vivaldi’s Bajazet the aria is sung by the villainous character; Irene.
More recently the aria has now been re-attributed to Vivaldi himself and in this production soprano Helen Sherman will take the role of Irene.
I am a scorned wife,
faithful, yet insulted.
Heavens, what did I do?
And yet he is my heart,
my husband, my love,
I love him, but he is unfaithful,
I hope, but he is cruel,
will he let me die?
O God, valour is missing –
valour and constancy.
Bajazet has been defeated and taken captive by the ruthless Tamerlane, renowned for the barbarity of his conquests and by way of contrasts, his cultural achievement. He defiantly refuses to submit to his demands.
Tamerlane is in love with Asteria, prepared to ditch his fiancée Irene for her. Asteria however is not enamoured and after some confusion, remains loyal to her true love Andronicus.
Furious Tamerlano dictates all manner of dire punishments. Bajazet however is master of his own destiny, and prefers ‘death before dishonour’.
Love conquers hate and all’s well that ends well.
The summer production in December 2015 will be a French comedic experience L’Amant Jaloux – The Jealous Lover by André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741-1813), which premiered with L’Opéra Comique in 1778 one of France’s oldest theatrical and musical institutions.
Witty, wicked and with ‘piquant melodies’, this work is taken from a libretto by Thomas Hales.
The aristocracies delight at his achievement was echoed when the Parisian public shared their joy when L’Opera Comique troupe played further performances in the Hôtel de Bourgogne auditorium, immediately following its debut.
Talented American Director Chas Rader-Shieber, whose production of Orlando at Hobart Baroque in Tasmania in 2014 delighted so many, will return down under to apply his magic touch.
Much lauded British tenor Ed Lyon makes his Pinchgut debut featuring as Don Alonze.
A choral scholar who studied the history of art at Cambridge and trained at the Royal Academy of Music and the National Opera Studio, Ed Lyon has made a considerable name for himself in a short space of time.
Pinchgut Opera Giasone favourites will return, including Australia soprano Celeste Lazarenko as Léonore, Australian born operatic tenor Andrew Goodwin as Florival and David Greco as Lopez.
Captivating Australian soprano Jacqueline Porter will also make her Pinchgut Opera debut as Isabelle.
André Grétry became renowned for his comedic works and for ensuring the previous ‘vaudeville type’ opera experiences were lifted up and given ‘loftier aspirations’ through the freshness of his imagination.
In Grétry’s sphere of influence farce became bourgeois opera.
His works focused aesthetic views of the doctrines of the ‘age of enlightenment’ – 1650’s to 1780’s were all about searching for truth of expression.
They earned him the label ‘the musical Moliére’, whose observation ‘noble birth is nothing without virtue’ still rings true.
French actor and playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliére (1622-1673) together with those living in an ‘age of reason’ including his later follower Grétry, were at the forefront of those animating the absurd, although not beyond the bounds of probability.
This delightful confection brings ‘music poetry, dance and drama’ together in an early example of excellence in French opera.
With music of great melodic grace and sophistication the opera was recorded as a great success.
The poet and the composer receiving unanimous applause, unusual at the time, which the press duly noted.
Amazing to contemplate that it has languished for so long, although the French revolution meant that many great musical experiences were overlooked for a very long time.
The Pinchgut Opera has an objective to flush out these hidden bravura gems and although cast in a comedic light, its romantic atmosphere means that ‘force and pathos’ combine in a work that Grétry affectionately talked about in his Memoirs as being his most favoured.
In three acts we learn that Léonore the beautiful daughter of Lopez a rich merchant from Cadiz, is involved in tangled tale of love and laughter with men in closets, secret trysts and ending with prospects of a double wedding.
L’Amant Jaloux – The Jealous Lover promises to be another very special Xmas treat experience to give yourself and those you love, and we will report about the production again closer to opening night.
15 years along however, we would have to say the Pinchgut Opera has forged its place on the Australian opera scene with its commitment to excellence in the art of creativity and by offering the highest quality of performance possible.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Orchestra of the Antipodes – Matthew Greco, leader
The Jealous Lover
Dec 3, 5, 6 & 8 2015
Libretto: Thomas Hales
Orchestra of the Antipodes – Brendan Joyce, leader