Two DVDs, a bottle of brandy, and hours of music make for the most erotic opera I have yet watched. Last night I revelled in Il Giasone, or Jason in English by Francesco Cavalli.
This opera was first staged on the 5th January 1648. Monteverdi who started opera was dead and Cavalli took over in Vienna and its opera. There were seven theaters in the city, and there was a steady stream of popular music and comedy, mostly by way of opera. Make it sexy and they will come was probably the motto. None of that serious stuff that infected later opera.
Jason is the classical guy who got the golden fleece. But this opera barely touches on his heroic deed. Rather the story is about his love life. He beds two queens, both beautiful, both passionately in love with him. He even gets one pregnant. He is a rake; constantly berated by his lovers; and a bit confused about it all. For women are made to love, is his opinion. Marriage is passe, is his opinion. By the end of the opera, we agree and sympathise with him, thinking who cares?
Along the way we have glorious opera comedy, including the only singing stutterer in opera I have come across. His stuttering makes for great music—he repeats beautiful notes ad infinitum, So we laugh with and at him and political correctness be damned.
Nobody dies–why go to the theater to see death? But they do make love, in all sorts of interesting places and positions. And at the end, the right couples are reconciled and in love. All adultery is forgiven and forgotten. That is just the way we are, is the message. What a wonderful evening’s entertainment.
This sumptuous production on DVD is from the opera folk at Antwerp and Delft. They spare no punches. The women are shapely and show their breasts every so often. The men are handsome and spend most of the opera sans shirts. The countertenor, Christophe Dumaux is a wonder to behold. His singing is effortless and penetrating. His acting is convincing: a hero of Greek tragedy, yet a puppy in love & lust.
A word on the music: foreign at first with that sparse and clean sound of early opera. Yet it grows on you as the rhythm and tunes take hold. Strange sounds from unfamiliar orchestra instruments; but soon your feet are tapping and your brain is afire with sound and emotion. So much more complex yet simple than modern rock & roll. The Doors and the Decembrists come close. Maybe they are indeed the musical heirs of this music style. Celtic music is a pale simulacrum. Bluegrass at its best emulates the sound; at its worst, it degenerates into a pale echo of this early sound.
For here is the genius who set us on the path of the most modern sounds in music. Go back to the deepest brain cells and their response to the beat, to the rhythm, to the speed, and ability of music and the skill of the composer to awake, excite, stimulate, and provoke us.
I will seek more of Cavalli’s music.
Incidently this is posting 1,500 on this blog. Wow, I have written a lot.