Friday, July 15, 2011

World Premiere of Rameau's Revised "Dardanus" by EOC

Cast member Svetli Chaumie
The European Opera Centre will present the world premiere performance of Jean-Philippe Rameau's rarely heard 18th century opera Dardanus on July 20 (Limerick, Ireland) & 22 (Liverpool, England). "The musicians are French, handpicked and each of them is specific to their basse de viole, clavecin, hautbois and hautes-contre de violin. There’s a list of 28 instruments in all..." The opera is performed on occasion around the world, but generally in its first version given in Paris in 1739 at the Académie Royal de Musique. This production presents the revised edition by Rameau five years after the premiere, which has never been revived in modern times.

"This new edition – commissioned by the European Opera Centre from the French musicologist, Dr Gilles Rico - is based on the 1744 version of the opera. It incorporates the numerous emendations made by Rameau during the 1744 and 1760 runs of the opera to tighten the dramatic grip and enlarge the emotional range of musical expression. Using autograph and non-autograph eighteenth-century manuscript and printed sources, it makes available for the first time to modern audiences some of the most beautiful and inspired musical passages of an opera which epitomizes the evolution of French opera in the eighteenth century from a court entertainment - constrained by the grand display of technical prowess and a pronounced taste for extraordinary stories - to a more intimate and more humanistic drama."

[Watch an excerpt of Christiane Eda-Pierre as Vénus singing "Marlgre le Dieu Des Mers" in a 1980 production of Dardanus at the Théâtre National de Paris with conductor Raymond Leppard]


Based loosely on the mythological Greek tale of Dardanus, son of Zeus & Electra and founder of the city of Dardania on Mount Ida in the Troad, at war with King Teucer, who has promised to marry his daughter Iphise to King Antenor. Dardanus and Iphise meet, through the intervention of the magician Isménor, and fall in love. Dardanus attacks a monster ravaging Teucer's kingdom, saving the life of Anténor who is attempting, unsuccessfully, to kill it. Teucer and Dardanus make peace, the latter marrying Iphise.

The shows co-producer, David Collopy, explains, “Today it is a Romeo and Juliet story, boy meets girl...this is why Dardanus is such a historic work. Rameau rewrote it in a humanistic and realistic style which makes the distinction between old baroque operas and their heroic stories, and a new style in opera that came to the fore. There is no sea monster anymore.”

"The Liverpool dates will be the first time this new version has been heard in the UK. The production is by the acclaimed French theatre director, Bernard Rozet. A cast of carefully selected young European singers from Belgium, France, Greece, Lithuania and Poland join young period instrument players. The European Opera Centre cast and period instrument ensemble are conducted by Laurent Pillot whose previous posts have included Associate Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera Company working with Placido Domingo. He conducted several productions alongside Domingo and Kent Nagano including Madama Butterfly, Tosca, La Bohème and Ariadne auf Naxos. He also founded and Directed the Bavarian State Opera in Munich from 2006-2009."

Performance History of Dardanus:
"It was first performed at the Académie de musique in Paris on November 19, 1739. It received 26 performances, mainly because of the support from Rameau's followers in the dispute between the styles of Rameau and Lully. Critics accused Rameau's original opera of lacking a coherent plot. The inclusion of the sea monster also violated the French operatic convention of having a clear purpose for encounters with supernatural beings. In 1744 (with help from Simon-Joseph Pellegrin)[1], and again in 1760, Dardanus was revised extensively in an attempt to correct its shortcomings. Large portions of the score were sacrificed in favour of plot but some scenes as arresting as the "Prison scene" (1744) were added in the process. Dardanus was produced three times in the 20th century: in 1907 at Dijon, in 1979 at the Opéra de Paris, and finally in 1998, in a concert version, at the time of a recording (below) by Marc Minkowski. The Royal Academy of Music also staged Dardanus in London in 2006."

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