Back to Baroque and to the battle lines with English Touring Opera

By Claire Seymour for Opera Today

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Dardanus and Giulio Cesare: English Touring Opera at the Hackney Empire. Photo: Jane Hobson

Romeo and Juliet, Rinaldo and Armida, Ramadès and Aida: love thwarted by warring countries and families is a perennial trope of literature, myth and history. Indeed, ‘Love and war are all one,’ declared Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, a sentiment which seems to be particularly exemplified by the world of baroque opera with its penchant for plundering Classical Greek and Roman myths for their extreme passions and conflicts. English Touring Opera’s 2017 autumn tour takes us back to the Baroque and back to the battle-lines.

Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Dardanus is the first time ETO have tackled the French baroque. The opera got caught up in its own war: the war of words that raged during the 1730s between the Lullistes, who posited themselves as the defenders of French musical traditions, and the Ramistes, who supported Rameau’s innovative introduction of dissonance, colour and virtuosity. The premiere in 1739 ran for 26 performances, but the libretto by Charles-Antoine Le Clerc de La Bruère was criticized for its absurdities and supernatural elements, and the composer and Pierre-Joseph Pellegrin subsequently carried out extension revisions, excising the mythological prologue, the dream sequences and sea monsters, focusing on the human elements of the tale, and entirely re-shaping the last three acts. The new version was given in 1744 and it is this score which ETO are presenting, incorporating some of Rameau’s further 1760 revisions.

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Photo credit: Jane Hobson
Source: Opera Today

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