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Calisto La, Cavalli: MERCURIO

La Calisto

(Opera in 3 acts)


Photo taken from Opera magazine, August 1993

Composer: Francesco Cavalli
Librettists: Giovanni Faustini after Ovid’s Metamorphosis
Venue and Dates: La Monnaie (Brussels)
April 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 11, 1993. Première.
Conductor: René Jacobs
Director: Herbert Wernicke (also set designer, costume designer)
Dramaturgist: Albrecht Puhlmann
Lighting: Robert Brasseur
Eternita: Maria Bayo
Natura: Reinaldo Macias
Destino: Monica Bacelli
Giove: Marcello Lippi
Mercurio: Simon Keenlyside
Calisto : nymphe de Diana: Maria Bayo
Endimione, un berger amoureux de Diana: Graham Pushee
Diana: Monica Bacelli
Linfea, nymphe de Diana: Christophe Homberger
Satirino, petit satire: Dominique Visse
Pane, dieu des bergers: Reinaldo Macias
Silvano, dieu des forêts: David Pittsinger
Giunone: Sonja Theodoridou
Le Furie: Claudia Schubert, Judith Vindevogel
Concerto Vocale
Choro di menti celesti – Dominique Visse, Monica Bacelli, Reinaldo Macias, David
Notes: There exists a video and a documentary on the production. The video was made in 1996 with Hans Peter Kammerer as Mercurio, but in the documentary one can get a
very brief glimpse (less than a second of SK as Mercurio).

Click here to view details of a CD of La Calisto


Joel Kasow, Opera News, September 1993


Cavalli’s La Calisto (April 4), masterminded by conductor René Jacobs and director-designer Herbert Wernicke, offered an afternoon of total enchantment. Wernicke’s simple decor – copied from the ceiling of a palace in Viterbo depicting a heavenly chart, with lots of trap doors and windows and descending platforms – gave ample space and ambience for his bawdy commedia dell’arte approach. One might question the necessity of cramming Endimione into such a scheme as Pierrot when Graham Pushee’s countertenor was particularly affecting in this human character. Star of the evening was Maria Bayo in the title role, her warm, well-schooled soprano and temperament-to-burn indicating a singer to watch. Alessandra Mantovani sang Diana from the orchestra while an indisposed Monica Bacelli acted out the role. Marcello Lippi sang not only a jocular Giove but also displayed a remarkable falsetto as Giove disguised as Diana (unlike the 1970 Glyndebourne performances, which had Janet Baker portraying Diana in both guises). Christophe Hombergher’s travesty Linfea threatened to exceed the bounds of good taste, but that is in the tradition of the role. Dominique Visse’s nimble Satirino, Simon Keenlyside’s athletic Mercurio, Sonja Theodoridou’s emphatic Giunone, and the Pane of Reinaldo Macias and Silvano of David Pittsinger rounded out a remarkable cast. Jacobs also provided the performing version, using a larger orchestra (of authentic instruments) than is customary.

Opera magazine, August 1993

Magical ‘Calista’

…Meanwhile, the two most recent productions have been very much up to the standard we have come to expect of the Monnaie; indeed the first of them, a brand new Calista, was one of those magical evenings (April 4) when everything was about as perfect as could be imagined. The particular achievement was to have captured with just the right, sly touch the humour, wistfulness and sexiness with which Cavalli and librettist Faustini concocted their dramma per musica. On this showing and that of his Ring for the Monnaie 18 months ago, Herbert Wernicke is a producer of exceptional range and imagination, and it is difficult to see how Calisto could have been better done – from the moment when Jupiter descended (as do the other gods later) on his cloud, let down by deliberately visible stage hands, who then remained to watch the action from on high until it was time to hoist him back again to Olympus.

The permanent set, also by Wernicke, is a beautifully painted sky-blue cube with all the constellations already in place apart from the Great Bear (never mind it’s not the Little one) which in the closing moments is magically raised into position while a toast is drunk to this latest addition to the splendour of the heavens. Meanwhile Mercury has his own spyhole from which to make his cynical comments on the action, Pan and his attendants pop up and down through a trapdoor decorated with a graffito phallus; Jupiter’s love nest is reached through two other trapdoors, one displaying a pierced heart, the other a record of his conquests to date. This leaves stage level for our two humans, Calisto and Endymion, the latter’s mournful idealism nicely pin-pointed by his white face, Pierrot costume and battered suitcase in which he keeps the star symbolizing his unattainable love for Diana.

In this production Diana does not double as Jupiter-as-Diana, since the conductor and ‘realisor’, Rene Jacobs, found in Marcello Lippi a singer whose falsetto was quite capable of the highly entertaining transition from lascivious god to equally lascivious goddess. Lippi’s baritone is a fine one and indeed all the singing was of very high quality, with the remarkable Maria Bayo, a real star in the making, as Calista, that excellent counter-tenor Graham Pushee as a touching Endymion, Simon Keenlyside making his mark both vocally and dramatically as a lubricious Mercury, and Sonja Theodoridou spitfiring her way through the role of the termagant Juno. Monica Bacelli was unfortunately indisposed, her part being well enough sung from the pit by Allessandra Mantovani, and the comic roles of the young Satyr, Pan, Silvano and the ageing nymph Linfea were given full rampant rein by, respectively. Dominique Visse, Reinaldo Macias, David Pittsinger and Christoph Homberger, all well in character but at the same time very much part of a team. And there, in charge of the musical side of things, from realization of Cavalli’s intentions to directing his own Concerto Vocale, was René Jacobs, very clearly the guiding light of the whole enterprise. He allowed a good deal of extemporization in the recitatives, accompanied by instruments including chamber organ, Baroque guitar, harp and lute. In every way a real achievement.

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