Information

Composer Francesco Cavalli
In Italian with English and German Surtitles

Saturday, 14. May 2005
06:30 pm – 09:40 pm
Nationaltheater

Duration est. 3 hours 10 minutes · 1. Akt (est. 06:30 pm - 07:35 pm ) · Interval (est. 07:35 pm - 08:05 pm ) · 2. Akt (est. 08:05 pm - 09:25 pm )

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Cast

Musikalische Leitung
Ivor Bolton
Inszenierung
David Alden
Bühne
Paul Steinberg
Kostüme
Buki Shiff
Choreographische Mitarbeit
Beate Vollack
Licht
Pat Collins

La Natura
Dominique Visse
L'Eternità
Véronique Gens
Il Destino
Monica Bacelli
Giove
Umberto Chiummo
Mercurio
Martin Gantner
Calisto
Sally Matthews
Endimione
Lawrence Zazzo
Diana
Monica Bacelli
Linfea
Guy de Mey
Satirino
Dominique Visse
Pane
Kobie van Rensburg
Silvano
Clive Bayley
Giunone
Véronique Gens
Le Furie
Monica Bacelli
Le Furie
Dominique Visse
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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.

 

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

David Alden: Comical Beginning and Bitter End. Thoughts on La Calisto

Like so many 17th century operas, La Calisto also contains that fantastic admixture of comical and serious elements, which so incredibly fascinates me. They are jolly, almost vulgar musical comedies, which were par for the course back in those days, but with far deeper meaning than one might think at first glance, especially as the different aspects, levels and colors keep changing. Francesco Cavalli was composing for a paying audience, and that's why he moved opera somewhat farther away from early Monteverdian intellect toward pure entertainment. But blended with the wonderful mythological satire in La Calisto, this vaudeville about gods, humans and animals, there lies hidden a very bitter view of human life and the relationships between humans and the gods. There are two relationships between one divine and one human creature each in this opera, and in both cases the relationship ends tragically for the human.

The gods have lost all their role model function, and have fallen deeply. The head god's dysfunctional family reveals this in pitiless clarity. Giove is constantly cheating on his wife Giunine, and while his son Mercurio diligently helps him with these shenanigans, his daughter Diana suffers along with her mother under this bad example. Giove is nothing more than a womanizer, and not even a good one. He descends to earth, allegedly to imbue nature with new force, but in actual fact he is just looking for new nymphs to fool around with. He plays with his creatures rather than helping them. In the course of this, he runs into Calisto, whom he literally makes into a "star". Her father Lykaon has just lost a war against the gods and now has to wander through the forest transformed into a wolf. Calisto also lives in the woods. She is a nymph of the goddess Diana, but she is something special. She is different from the other nymphs. We can feel that she is very much alone, and she is opposed to men and any kind of relationship with them. Only the goddess Diana can really love her. These are very Sapphic, lesbian emotions that Calisto feels. And she does have the makings of a star - destiny, eternity and nature in the prologue recognize that quality early on in the prologue.

Just as Giove lies to his wife and everyone else to be able to follow his carnal lusts unrestrictedly, the life of his daughter Diana as a chaste goddess is also an outright lie. Diana suffers under a severe father complex; her father's affairs and the resultant suffering of her mother make it impossible for her to establish normal contacts with humans. She has a series of lovers, but she has to keep these relationships secret and hidden, and she can never really surrender to love, but rather has to cut every relationship short somehow to maintain her status as a chaste goddess. She's like a little girl playing with human toys, and this situation makes her bitter and unhappy. One of her series of lovers is Endimione, whom she turns away as cold as the moon, once she's seduced him. Only when he sleeps can she do as she pleases with him. The minute he wakes up she gets nervous and insecure. Her erotic impulses are in constant conflict with her shame. Almost like a vampire or an angel of death she finally brings about Endimione's end. She plunges him into eternal sleep, because this is the only way she can go on loving him.

The life of her brother Mercurio is also studded with lies - they are the daily bread in his function as the messenger of his father Giove. He is somewhat reminiscent of Loge, the way he constantly lies and hoodwinks to help his father find new girls, but he doesn't derive any pleasure from this job. He feels uncomfortable doing it, and unlike his father, he is never happy when he has to go down to earth among humans. He is intelligent, but over the course of the years - he is considerably older than his father - he has become highly perverse.

Like his children, Giove has also systematically destroyed his wife. All that's left for Giunione is the role of the jealous spouse, the classic satiric-comical loser. But even when she can't do anything against her husband's machinations, at least she can punish his bedmates, and so she takes vengeance on Calisto by transforming her into a she-bear. After that in her final aria Giunione bewails the tragic fate of many woman, who wait for their husbands at home, while the boys are out having a good time, only to arrive dead tired when they finally return to their conjugal bed. What started as a cliché takes on greater profundity here at the end.

The god Pane is also unlucky in love; his encounters with his adored Diana remind us of the spats between Oberon and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, just as the moods of the two works occasionally resemble one another. The whole world is somehow out of whack and in great disorder, there are all kinds of erotic tensions among the characters, and any number of negative urges between men and women. Pane, the forest god Silvano and their woodland companions - half human, half animal - are very much alone and live out their urges, if there is no comfortable way to go about it, perforce in perverse ways. This is why at the end they are all set to torture Endimione bestially to death. Here, too, we have this tipping over from merry pranks to bitterness: Pane, the rejected lover, seems occasionally comical, but also tragic, almost suicidal, and in his misery and fury he also becomes a mortal danger.

Finally we experience a totally insane relationship between the old nymph Linfea and Satirino, the little satyr. Linfea may initially say no to this young half-goat who adores her, but she is hot, she wants a man, she wants sex, and she wants it now, and then she just takes whatever she can get - better this one than no-one. But she is cruelly punished for that. Satirino has the same animalistic urges as his friends Pane and Silvano. Linfea can expect no love from him.

La Calisto is a play about unfulfilled relationships. For hardly anyone in this opera is there a happy ending, and certainly not for the two humans among all the gods and creatures of nature. They must pay dearly for their short, tempestuous dallying with the gods: Endimione must sleep for all eternity and serve Diana as a love-toy, and Calisto may be granted a brief glimpse of her future as a constellation in the sky, but she has to keep returning to earth and end her life as a she-bear. Her final trio with Giove and Mercurio has a bitter, almost tragic quality.


English Translation by Donald Arthur
© Bavarian State Opera

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Biographies

Ivor Bolton studierte am Royal College of Music und am National Opera Studio in London. Anschließend war er Musikdirektor der English Touring Opera, der Glyndebourne Touring Opera und des Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Gastdirigate führten ihn u. a. nach Wien, Zürich, Frankfurt, Paris, London, New York, Amsterdam, Dresden, Leipzig und Barcelona sowie zu den Festspielen in Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence und seit 2000 jährlich nach Salzburg. Von 2004 bis 2016 war er Chefdirigent des Mozarteum-Orchesters Salzburg. Derzeit ist er musikalischer Leiter des Dresdner Festspielorchesters, seit 2015 außerdem Musikdirektor am Teatro Real in Madrid und seit 2016 Chefdirigent des Sinfonieorchesters Basel. (Stand: 2019)

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