Music by Francesco Cavalli
Edited by Ellen Rosand
Libretto by G. A. Cicognini
Enchanting baroque 17th Century opera features mellow sounds
Chicago Opera Theater presents the first of three baroque masterpieces over the next few years. This season features Francesco Cavalli’s 1649 opera devoted to Medea as a central character – Jason (Giasone). The rarely presented opera was quite different from any opera I’ve ever witnessed.
The first thing I noticed was the strange assortment of 17th Century musical instruments in the orchestra pit. Two violins, two violas, a gamba, two theorbos, a violone and two harpsichord made up the unique sounding orchestra. The sound was dominated by the harpsichord with strong string influences. The sound was a serene mixture of melodies and haunting underscoring for the opera.
Next Cavalli’s score was filled with comic moments with an assortment wacky characters in the extremely popular Italian opera. Jason (Giasone) Franco Fagioli wonderfully moves from one lover to another an amoral ease. Medea (Sasha Cooke) sported a magnificent soprano with angry tones. Grazia Dorenzio (Isfile), Tyler Nelson (Delfa) and Julius Ahn (Demo) were particularly impressive. Chicago Opera Theater’s sets (by Anka Lupes) and lighting by Keith Parham together with the baroque music and rich vocals, produced a fine opera.
This was my first baroque opera and it did take me awhile to get accustomed to the harpsichord based music. One my ear was tuned in, the music and the spirited vocals were enjoyable. The comic touches worked well the counter tenor singing offered an interesting opera experience. It seems to me that baroque opera is an acquired taste like a dry wine. My experience with Jason begs for more. Try it, you’ll like it – once you give it a chance.
At the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, Chicago, IL, tickets $ 50 -$110, www.chicagooperatheater.org, April 28, 30 at 7:30 pm, May 2 at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes.