In the exotic locale of 17th-century Macao, two young lovers—Portuguese settlers—are manipulated by Asian deities and other mythic forces. This is the setting for the BGSU Opera Theater production of “La virtù de' strali d'Amore,” or “The Power of Cupid’s Arrows,” which premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 1) on the Kobacker Hall stage in Moore Musical Arts Center.
A second performance will be given at 7 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 3). For tickets, call 2-8171.
The colorful story, unusual for 17th-century opera, was perhaps the inspiration for later tales such as “Brigadoon.” The libretto was the first to feature particular plot structures that became commonplace in later operas. The plot features a pair of lovers (confused and misguided), a contrasting pair of magical women (one good, one evil), a noble prince, pastoral figures and deities—Amore and Venus among them. It allows the Bowling Green production to “recapture some of the visual magic and spectacle that impressed and attracted opera audiences in Venice,” said director Dr. Ronald Shields, chair of the theatre and film department.
Musical direction is provided by Paul O’Dette of the Eastman School of Music, one of the world’s foremost lute players (See www.bgsu.edu/offices/mc/monitor/10-22-07/page38778.html) and director of Eastman’s Collegium Musicum, which will also perform in Bowling Green. The entire production will then travel to Eastman for a performance on Nov. 9.
Blake Bard as Mercurio
The production is thought to be the first staging in modern times of the opera, which has music by famed composer Francesco Cavalli and libretto by Giovanni Faustini. Bowling Green has become a leader in restaging the works of Cavalli, having presented the North American premiere of his “Gli amore d’Apollo e di Dafne” in 2005. BGSU also teamed with O’Dette and Eastman on that production.
Also once again, Dr. Vincent Corrigan, musicology, created the transcription and the modern edition, and Dr. James Pfundstein, romance and classical studies, translated the work.
Geoff Stephenson as Giove welcomes the gods into his Court
In writing the libretto, the young Faustini, in his first collaboration with the celebrated Cavalli, chose to set it “on the island of Cyprus, in some magical time, when the lives of humans from the classical world (Athens, Cyprus and Thrace) could be imagined controlled by the immortal powers of Giove, Venere and Marte (Jove, Venus and Mars), and most importantly, the controlling power of the "strali d'Amore" (the power of Cupid's arrows),” wrote Shields in his director’s notes. “Our production builds on Faustini's references to Asia . . . by shifting the setting of the opera to the islands and peninsula of Macao in the year 1642. This exotic setting, inspired by specific details in Faustini's plot, also allows this production design to . . . create the visual splendor required by the action in (‘La virtu’) through acting conventions and traditions of spectacle and stagecraft borrowed from two contrasting 17th-century theatrical worlds: the scenic traditions of Venetian opera (painted drops and shutter scenery) and selected traditional forms of Asian performance (scene shifts, puppetry and masks). And through it all we have the nuanced and surprising beauties of Francesco Cavalli's operatic score, music that constantly shifts to support and contribute to the action and emotion onstage.”
For more details on the opera, visit www.bgsu.edu/colleges/music/events/opera.html.