A late Saturday posting: about the opera just watched on DVD of Pergolesi’s Il Prigionier Superbo. A lesbian opera in fact, if not by intention!
On the right side (dexter) is conventional opera. On the left side (sinister) is this opera.
All the stuff of conventional opera: a tyrant king; daughter-father love/hate; a love triangle; war between Norway & Denmark; revenge & forgiveness; a happy ending when the lovers are united.
The original was written for castrati. Thus it would be possible to distinguish male versus female. In this production (by Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiana) all the castrati roles are played by contraltos. In impossibly high-heals and very-low-cut dresses, revealing blooming breasts, they are not male, or the simulacrum thereof.
They sing of: extinguish my ire in your noble blood; the coxswain sighs with relief on passing through storms; and the nobility of Viridate. Recall that in Latin vir means man, hero, noble, great (hence virtue in English.)
Problem is that the castrati roles are sung by ladies in soft, flowing dresses & impossible high-heals and dresses of low cut; revealing flesh abundant. With too much brandy, I could not keep track of the supposed-males, the males, the females, and who loves & hates whom.
Who cares? The music is what counts? Foot-tapping, bounce in unison; recall illicit love couplings & transient lovers; jack-off in the seat. This is indulgent, drunken pleasure! This is opera at its most lascivious! Sit back, indulge, enjoy, and dream of past encounters with the flesh of beautiful people!
The puppets remind me of a production of Waiting for Godot last seen fifty years ago at Wits: they inhabit garbage cans and talk of a god that is one hundred percent evil but only eighty percent effective. They talk of the eternal, and the eternal wait for justice; the coming of God.
Or as Dante said: Midway in the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost.
And then: Thus I descended from the first circle, down into the second, which girds a smaller space but greater agony to goad lament.
To: Then my master put his arms around my neck, kissed my face and said: “Indignant soul, blessed is she that bore you in her womb!”
But: “How many now above who think themselves great kings will lie here in the mud, like swine, leaving behind nothing but ill repute!”
And finally: we climbed up, he first and I behind him, far enough to see, through a round opening, a few of those fair things the heavens bear. Then we came forth, to see again the stars. E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stella.
PS: The quotes from Dante’s Inferno come from a new translation by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander. Powerful stuff.