EARLY MUSIC: According to host Robert Aubry Davis, the highlight of the Utrecht Festival of Early Music 2006 - absolutely extraordinary - was the reconstruction of a large-scale opera by the great Cavalli which was written for the Florentine Court.
Listen to the programme:
La Sfera Armoniosa Orchestra, conducted by Mike Fentross
L’Ipermestra, an opera by Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) on a libretto by Giovanni Andrea Moniglia (1624-1700). Its first modern performance since the 17th century took place in Utrecht, in August 2006, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the renowned Early Music Festival.
Previous to the opera
King Danao is chased from his Libyan realm by the fifty sons of his brother Egyptus. It wasn’t Danao’s life, however, that his nephews were after: the goal of the expedition was to marry his fifty daughters, much to the king’s horror since an oracle once foretold him he would lose his life and kingdom to one of these suitors.
With his daughters, he arrived before the gates of Argos asking for protection, but the Greeks were indecisive whether they should provide shelter for the foreign royal family: the duty of hospitality struggled with the danger of a war. Finally, Danao and his family were welcomed, and their rivals repelled. Now, a period of calm and prosperity came and Danao was chosen king of Argos. He even allowed Linceo, one of his nephews in the city for a while, and during this visit Linceo fell in love with Ipermestra, the eldest daughter, and the feeling was proven mutual. Violence flared once again, and for the second time, a fleet with the fifty suitors set out to destroy Argos. Seemingly breaking under the pressure, Danao ceremoniously welcomed his belligerent relatives to marry them to his daughters. Everything is now set for the big feast.
At the beginning of the opera, Ipermestra and Linceo say goodbye before the wedding. When her father calls her, he orders Ipermestra to kill her husband during the wedding night, just like her forty-nine sisters will murder their spouses in the marital bed. But Ipermestra feels her love for Linceo is too strong and cannot stop herself to unveil the plot to her fiancé. She begs him to flee, and broken-hearted Linceo leaves Argos. The next morning, Danao discovers that every one of his daughters has followed his orders, except Ipermestra. He locks her away to await her punishment.
In her prison, inconsolable, Ipermestra learns that Linceo has gathered his army and is on his way to Argos. Berenice, her nurse, tries to ease her pain by revealing that the handsome general Arbante would be more than happy to marry her. In vain, Arbante tries to convince Ipermestra that Linceo’s only purpose is to kill her father, and that her love will turn to hatred. But Ipermestra refuses to give her heart to another man, and asks Arbante to leave.
L'Ipermestra - Act 2, scene 1 (Ipermestra: Elena Monti & Elisa: Gaële Le Roi)
Stage director: Wim Trompert
Musical director: Mike Fentross
Decor: Eric Goossens
Lighting: Uri Rapaport
Costumes: Mirjam Pater
Choreography: Annabel Lopez Ochoa
Next week Part II of L'Ipermestra by Francesco Cavalli