“La Calisto” in Munich

Bayerische Staatsoper 

PRESENTS:

La Calisto

Francesco Cavalli

Francesco Cavalli: La Calisto. Kobie van Rensburg, Clive Bayley, Dominique Visse Francesco Cavalli: La Calisto. Umberto Chiummo, Sally Matthews Francesco Cavalli: La Calisto. Sally Matthews
Music by Francesco Cavalli
Libretto byGiovanni Faustini

Germany’s baroque opera capital is doubtless Munich. For anyone seeking to become better acquainted with the rich cosmos of “ancient music” between Monteverdi and Gluck, La Calisto by Monteverdi’s pupil Francesco Cavalli is an absolute must and a highlight for audience and ensemble. The “Munich baroque opera dream team”, Ivor Bolton and David Alden, take full advantage of the dramatic power of Cavalli’s characters and the high expressiveness of his music to bring the gods in this play down to earth, that is to say on the stage. Here they let it all hang out and prove that they are every bit as lustful, pernicious and simple-minded as mortal human beings.

Nationaltheater

Performances:
Sunday, 12 January 2014, 7.00 p.m.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014, 7.00 p.m.
Sunday, 19 January 2014, 6.00 p.m.
Tuesday, 21 January 2014, 6.30 p.m.

 SYNOPSIS

Prologue

Destiny persuades Nature and Eternity that Calisto deserves a place among the stars in heaven.

 

Act One

The world is suffering the consequences of a war between mankind and the gods. Giove (Jupiter) and Mercurio (Mercury) are making sure that everything is as it should be on earth. Giove observes Calisto, a nymph, lamenting the lack of drinking water, for which she blames Giove. Charmed by the girl’s beauty, Giove immediately replenishes a spring and makes improper advances to Calisto. She, however, belongs to the retinue of Diana, a daughter of Giove, and has proclaimed that she will die a virgin. In great indignation, Calisto rejects Giove’s advances. Mercurio advises Giove to take on the form of Diana, to whose charms the unsuspecting Calisto will surely succumb. The plan succeeds: Calisto has no objection to accepting affectionate kisses from her beloved goddess.

Endimione (Endymion) is also in love with the chaste Diana. When she appears in the company of Linfea (Lynfea) and her nymphs, he can no longer hide his feelings and thus immediately incurs Linfea’s anger. Diana also treats Endimione rather coldly, in order not to betray the fact that she is secretly in love with him. Calisto joins Diana and the nymphs, ecstatic at the pleasure she has experienced with the kisses she and “Diana” have just exchanged, which understandably causes some confusion in Diana. She accuses Calisto of being a shameless hussy and banishes her from her entourage.

Linfea admits to herself that she would also really like to have a lover. A little satyr – Satirino – offers himself as a solution to her problem. Together with Silvano (Sylvano), the god of the woods, he subsequently tries to give new heart to Pane (Pan), the god of the shepherds, who is suffering from the throes of unrequited passion for Diana.

 

Act Two

Endimione wants to be near Diana and sees her in the form of the moon. When he has fallen asleep, Diana can no longer withstand her feelings for him. She kisses Endimione, who immediately awakes and finds that reality is as attractive as his dream, he has achieved his heart’s desire. Satirino, who has observed the scene without being noticed, now voices his own opinion on the constancy of women.

Giove’s jealous consort Giunone (Juno) suspects that her husband’s visit to earth is not only the result of his concern for the ravishes wrought by war and now decides in her turn to pay earth a visit. She immediately comes across Calisto, who in her despair innocently tells her how Diana was at first so loving and then so cold and cruel towards her for no apparent reason. Giunone knows her husband well enough to suspect immediately what has actually happened. Her suspicions are confirmed when Giove, in the form of Diana, comes into view with Mercurio and arranges another assignation with Calisto. Giunone angrily swears to be revenged on her rival, Calisto.

Before Giove, still in the form of Diana, can disappear for his rendezvous with Calisto, Endimione returns. Believing that it is Diana whom he has come upon, Endimione chats in lovesick fashion about the kisses he has exchanged with the goddess the previous night, thus revealing to Giove that Diana is perhaps not as chaste as he has been led to believe. Pane, Silvano and Satirino are also taken in by Giove’s disguise: convinced that they have caught Diana with her lover, they take Endimione prisoner and threaten to kill him. Mercurio urges Giove to have nothing to do with the whole affair and to disappear. Endimione has no choice but to think that Diana has heartlessly abandoned him to his plight and loses all will to live. Linfea, on the other hand, is now determined to go to any lengths in her urgent search for a lover.

 

Act Three

Calisto waits expectantly for “Diana” at the appointed time. In her place Giunone appears with furies and turns Calisto into a bear. In this form, she believes, her rival will no longer be quite so attractive in Giove’s eyes.  Giove, however, is determined to raise Calisto to divine status. He cannot, in fact, turn the clock back and restore Calisto to her original form, but he promises that when her life on earth as a bear comes to an end she will have a place among the stars in the firmament.

In the meantime the real Diana rescues Endimione from the hands of Pane and Silvano, who see this as a confirmation of their opinion of her as someone who appears chaste but who is in reality obviously sensual through and through. Diana decides that she will keep Endimione as her lover, in eternal sleep in the mountains.

In order to give Calisto some idea of her future glory, Giove shows her the firmament in all its magnificence, where her place in the constellation of Ursa Major is secure. But that time has not yet come; Giove and Calisto say farewell to each other. Calisto has to return to earth as a bear. 

© Bavarian State Opera

In Italian with German surtitles

CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM

Conductor

Ivor Bolton (© Ben Wright)

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Choreography Staff

Beate Vollack

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Production

David Alden bei Proben zu 'La Calisto'

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Set

Paul Steinberg
Paul Steinberg
stammt aus New York City. Als Bühnenbildner arbeitete er an vielen goßen Opernhäusern der Welt. Ausstattung u.a. von Lohengrin (Opéra Bastille, Paris), Hindemiths Tryptichon (Opernhaus Köln), I vespri siciliani (San Francisco Opera), Lulu (English National Opera, Oper Frankfurt), Madama Butterfly (Oper Tel-Aviv), Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Partenope (Lyric Opera Chicago), Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Miami-Opera), Lulu und Schrekers Schatzgräber (Oper Frankfurt), Wozzeck und Turandot (Welsh National Opera), Arabella in Antwerpen und Genf und The Rape of Lucretia (Glimmerglass Festival, New York City Opera) sowie Il trovatore bei den Bregenzer Festspielen. Darüberhinaus unterrichtet er Bühnen-Design an der New York University. An der Bayerischen Staatsoper Ausstattung von L`incoronazione di Poppea, Rinaldo, Pique Dame, Rodelinda, Regina de’Longobardi, La Calisto, Orlando.

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Costumes

Buki Shiff

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Lighting

Pat Collins

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La Natura / Satirino / Le Furie

Dominique Visse

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L’Eternità / Giunone

Karina Gauvin © Michael Slobodian

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Il Destino / Diana / Le Furie

Anna Bonitatibus

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Endimione

Tim Mead (Foto: B. Ealovega)

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NOTES ON THE PERFORMANCE

World Première on 28th November 1651, Teatro St Apollinare, Venice  

Not only Harry Potter fans know that Calisto is the second largest moon of Jupiter. The stars which circle this, the largest planet in our solar system, tend to be named after those that the father of the Gods lusted after – Ganymede, Europa, Io and Leda among others. So one does not need to have an intimate knowledge of Greek mythology to assume, correctly, that Francesco Cavalli’s opera La Calisto is about one of Jupiter’s many love affairs. Calisto was indeed Diana’s favourite arcadian nymph and, as such, swore a vow of chastity. Jupiter, however, never at a loss for a scheme when it came to seduction, simply took on the form of Diana in order to seduce Calisto. The poor girl was punished twice for this: Diana banished her from her entourage and Jupiter’s jealous wife, Juno, turned her into a bear.
Whether or not the fact that Jupiter finally gave her a place in heaven in the constellation of the Great Bear was any consolation for poor darling Calisto is a debatable point.

Francesco Cavalli was one of the first great opera composers and yet was seen as a radical. Only ten years before the first performance of La Calisto (1651), operas had been performed almost exclusively at court. With the opening of the first public opera house in Venice in 1637 the form and content of opera changed. Passion, intrigue and frivolity gradually replaced the lofty arcadian themes of early works. The ancient gods were shoved into the background in favour of comic figures, servants and nurses who, together with ancient heroes, provided a well balanced mixture of seriousness and comedy. La Calisto bears all the symptoms of this transition. Once again the mythical Arcadia is the setting for the story, once again there are only two mortals (Calisto and Endimione) in a cast which otherwise consists exclusively of Gods and spirits. But Cavalli was not a pupil of
Monteverdi’s for nothing; the latter’s two late works Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria
and L’incoronazione di Poppea had already explored new possibilities of the still
young art form, including biting satire. In La Calisto the Gods have lost their role as models for human beings because of their uncontrollable passions and humans are shown as the only ones capable of the finer emotions. From the musical point of view La Calisto stands, so to speak, on the threshold between court opera and opera for the people. The expressive recitatives, which Cavalli gleaned from Monteverdi, are mixed with declamatory arias and the result is a vocal diversity  which was unparalleled at the time.

354 years after its performance in Venice, Cavalli’s La Calisto will be a crucial addition to the Baroque repertoire of the Bayerische Staatsoper in its first ever production by the company. It will provide the chronological and stylistic link in the chain between the works of Monteverdi and Händel. Ivor Bolton will conduct a magnificent ensemble of singers with Sally Matthews in the title role as well as Monica Bacelli (Diana), Veronique Gens (Giunone), Umberto Chiummo (Giove), Martin Gantner (Mercurio), Lawrence Zazzo (Endimione), Guy de Mey (Linfea), Dominique Visse (Satirino), Kobie van Rensburg (Pane) and Clive Bayley (Silvano). The première of David Alden‘s production, in stage designs by Paul Steinberg and costumes by Buki Shiff, will be on 9th May 2005 in the Nationaltheater.

Sir Peter Jonas
Staatsintendant
March 2004

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