Monday, May 20, 2019

Edwin Crossley-Mercer in first performance of Hippolyte et Aricie in Zurich

Edwin Crossley-Mercer in Hippolyte et Aricie (Photo: T+T Fotografie)
Barihunk Edwin Crossley-Mercer performed Thésée in the first performance of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie at the Zurich Opera House last night, which was conducted by 18th-century French music expert Emmanuelle Haïm. They were joined by Stéphanie d’Oustrac  as Phèdre, Cyrille Dubois as Hippolyte and Mélissa Petit as Aricie.

There are additional performances of this French Baroque rarity on May 22, 24 and 30, and June 2, 7 and 14. Tickets and additional cast information is available online.

Jean-Philippe Rameau was 50 years old when he staged his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, in 1733. There was little in his life to suggest he was about to embark on a major new career as an opera composer. He was famous for his works on music theory as well as books of harpsichord pieces. The closest he had come to writing dramatic music was composing a few secular cantatas and some popular pieces for the Paris fairs

As the most important musical theorist of his day, Rameau created a work that far surpassed the conventions of French musical theatre of the time. The French libretto, by Abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, is based on Racine's tragedy Phèdre. The opera takes the traditional form of a tragédie en musique with an allegorical prologue followed by five acts.

After a performance at the Paris Opéra in 1767, the work disappeared from the stage until the 20th century. The first modern performance took place in Geneva in March 1903 and returned to Paris in 1908. More recent performances include Aix-en-Provence in 1983, Lyon in 1984, the Opéra Comique in Paris in 1985, Lausanne in 1987, Versailles, in 1994, Palais Garnier in Paris in 1996 and Glyndebourne in 2013.

American audiences will be thrilled to know that Edwin Crossley-Mercer will appear at Carnegie Hall on June 24th (keep an eye out for an upcoming post with all the details)!

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