The greatest opera of the entire French Baroque era.
Originally scheduled in Pinchgut Opera’s 2020 season, the greatest opera of the French Baroque era finally takes the stage in 2022. Médée is high drama and emotion: French tragédie lyrique in its most classic form. The sorceress Médée is driven by desperation and the abandonment of her lover Jason to do the unthinkable, and ultimately murder her own children.
Charpentier’s sensual lyricism and dramatic insight take us deep inside the mind and heart of this powerful and damaged woman who refuses to be a victim – even at the cost of her own flesh and blood.
Returning to Pinchgut after her star turn in The Return of Ulysses, mezzo-soprano Catherine Carby takes on the role of the tortured Médée, with the brilliant Michael Petruccelli, who was thrilling in 2019’s Farnace, as her lover Jason. Cathy-Di Zhang, Andrew Finden and Adrian Tamburini are joined by Cantillation and the inimitable Orchestra of the Antipodes to tell this passionate and unforgettable story.
In the brilliant hands of Artistic Director Erin Helyard, Médée’s legendary story will finally be brought to the stage for the first time in Australia, with all the sophistication, eloquence and power of the French Baroque era.
Médée by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
City Recital Hall, Sydney Thu 1 Dec 7pm | Sat 3 Dec 2pm | Sun 4 Dec 5pm | Tue 6 Dec 7pm | Wed 7 Dec 7pm
Sung in French with English surtitles
Running time 3 hours including interval Tickets $59 - $223 Under 30s $55
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*Chloe Lankshear is a Taryn Fiebig Scholar, and appears in this production as part of that program.
Charpentier was born in an aristocratic France where music was predominantly heard in the church and stylistically influenced by Italian and German models. Well-to-do Charpentier found himself studying law in Paris and eventually music in Rome. There he was spotted by the composer Giacomo Carissimi, who became his mentor. Back in France, Charpentier spent 17 years as court composer to Marie de Lorraine before working in a similar post for the Dauphin, son of Louis XIV and then as music master for the Jesuit order in Paris. Eventually he directed music at the Saint-Chapelle, the gothic chapel at the Palais de Justice.
Charpentier dabbled in theatrical music, but the vast majority of his music was written for the Catholic church: motets (often ‘grand’ motets for huge forces), masses, cantatas and oratorios. In fact it was Charpentier who introduced the Latin oratorio – a large-scale setting of a biblical text for voices and orchestra – to France. This was a field the composer excelled in, often giving a prominent role to the chorus and sometimes writing for double chorus to increase dramatic effect. That drama, always born of the text, was pioneered by Charpentier and breathed new life into sacred music in France.
If it hadn’t been for the pre-eminent French composer of the day, Lully, Charpentier might have got higher profile employment. Charpentier and Lully were famously opposed, and Lully – as the court composer – saw to it that Charpentier was given much notable court employment. Not much is known about Charpentier’s character, but a small glimpse of autobiography is included in his own cantata Epitaphium Carpentarij, in which a character of his own name proclaims, ‘I was a musician, considered good by the good ones…and since those who scorned me were more numerous than whose who lauded me, music became to me a small honour and a heavy burden.’
Pinchgut Opera acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the first story-tellers and singers of songs. We pay our respects to elders past, present, and emerging.