What is Baroque opera?

It was the early 17th century when composers such as Monteverdi and Cavalieri first set dramatic stories to music. Add lavish costume, striking sets and a heavenly chorus, and early opera was born. The art form was born in Italy, and quickly spread throughout continental Europe to flourish and transform in places like France and Germany.

Baroque opera is revered for the weird and wonderful instruments that often appear in a baroque orchestra, including a lute, harpsichord and contrabassoon. Story lines in Baroque opera range from gut wrenching drama to uproarious comedy (and everything in between) and are often based on Greek and Roman mythology.

If you love a good story, told with passion and flair, Baroque opera is for you.

What does Baroque opera look like?

Sometimes like this:

 Rameau (2017)

Rameau (2017)

Sometimes like this...

 Armida (2016)

Armida (2016)

Or even this!

 Giasone (2013)

Giasone (2013)

What does Baroque opera sound like?

This is an aria from Castor & Pollux, an opera written in 1737 and revived in 2012 by Pinchgut Opera. Notice how the richness of the human voice is complemented by the distinctive sounds of the Baroque orchestra.

Tristes apprêts from Pinchgut Opera's production of Castor & Pollux. Celeste Lazarenko, Orchestra of the Antipodes, Antony Walker conductor. Recorded at the City Recital Hall Angel Place December 2012.

What is the relationship between Pinchgut Opera and Baroque opera?

Pinchgut Opera are proud to be at the forefront of bringing Baroque opera to a broader audience in Australia, and only perform works from the 17th and 18th centuries. The music of Rameau, and French Baroque opera more broadly for example, were virtually unknown in Sydney until Pinchgut started uncovering some jewels and presenting them to a broader audience.

Other companies do the more familiar operas excellently; we want to help audiences discover something new. We do so under the sure hand of Artistic Director Erin Helyard. Erin is senior lecturer in music at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and has published a multitude of works on the intricacies and importance of the Baroque period.

Pinchgut’s continued success proves that great stories remain great stories, beautiful music remains spellbinding and that what's old can become new again (with a little 21st century flair thrown in for good measure!)

Our next production, Handel's Athalia opens in June. Click here to book tickets.