One of the most powerful and scorned Greek sorceresses, falls progressively into madness…

The MET Opera House/ “Medea” by Luigi Cherubini/ Tuesday September 27th, 2022: Opening Night and MET Opera Premiere.

Welcome back friends!

Yay!

Welcome back, this week, to a new season of opera, and to its Opening Night!!!

Yay! yay! yay!

And welcome, for the very first time, at The MET Opera, to an iconic, timeless, dark work, from the late 18th century, based on an illustrious Greek myth, filled with bewitchingly, powerful and beguiling, God descendant heroes, whose various choices, prompt unspeakable pain and tragedy; an epic opera drenched also, in witchcraft, and driven by elegant, classical, romantic, passionate music, and filled with wonderful arias, and great choruses.

Wow! wow! wow!

Yay! yay! yay!

Welcome to “Medea”, by Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842).

Yay! yay! yay!

A legendary opera, “Medea”, that, so far, as many, I had never seen, as it demands a great dramatic soprano, to embody this sorceress’ multifaceted role, and very few have tried it.

Wow!

And let me tell you, right off the bat, that Sondra Radvanovsky, as Medea, was spectacular last Tuesday evening, for Opening night, and knew she had big shoes to fill, as this was one of Callas’ signature roles, in the 1950 and 60s.

Wow!

And the music, Cherubini’s music, ladies and gentlemen, his music is so incredibly beautiful, that it makes this epic Greek tragedy, not only bearable, but actually incredibly enjoyable, especially when masterly conducted, by maestro Rizzi, with such brio!

Wow! wow! wow!

And yay! yay! yay!

And interestingly, this late 18th century “Medea” (or “Médée”, in French) tragic opera, with spoken dialogue, from Cherubini, found even greater success, when reworked in the 19th century (with additional music for the spoken dialogue, by German composer Franz Lachner (1803-1890), and a translation of the text, in Italian, by librettist Carlo Zangarini (1874-1943), into what has become the standard Italian version of ‘Medea”, from Cherubini’s initial (1797)”Médée”; blending thus, formal 18th century Classical musical elegance, such as found as well, in works by Gluck (1714-1787) or Mozart (1756-1791), to passionate, visceral 19th century music from the Romantic era, such as found in some of Beethoven (1770-1827) later works, or found in Wagner (1813-1883), in his middle period and later operas.

Wow! and yay!

And it is, as mentioned earlier, with Callas’ performances in the 20th century, that “Medea” found its pinnacle, where it was performed (as it was last Tuesday evening, at the Met Opera), in Italian.

Wow! and yay!

Yet, it is also important to keep in mind, that Cherubini (1760-1842), Italian born, but having lived mostly in Paris), was greatly admired by many peers, including Haydn(1732-1809), Beethoven (1770-1827), Rossini (1792-1868), and Chopin (1810-1849).

Wow!

And his operatic work on “Médée” in collaboration with French playwright, François, Benoît Hoffman (1760-1828), for the French libretto, drew inspiration from the iconic 431 BCE “Medea” Greek tragedy, by illustrious Euripides (ca 480-06 BCE), and the 1635 “Médée” play, from French playwright, Pierre Corneille (1606-85), to create his own operatic version of this epic Greek myth.

Wow! wow! wow!

So what is “Medea” more specifically about?

In a nutshell, “Medea” tells the story of a powerful, scorned, god descending, sorceress, named Medea, whose overwhelming pain, wrath, and mounting madness, at the idea of being abandoned by her husband, for another woman he is about to marry, will conceive a cruel, ruthless, and horrifying multifaceted plan, to avenge her pain, leading to unspeakable tragedy for all those dear to her, herself included.

Oh boy!

So, what else is important to know, regarding “Medea”, to truly grasp this myth’s power, and understand its timeless resonance?

Cherubini’s retelling of the epic plot in his opera, is, interestingly, pretty close to the Euripides’ initial, timeless, and harrowing play.

Wow!

So first, let me give you a few more details about Medea’s past, to better understand her present, and her ultimate destiny and fate.

The great Medea, was a Greek princess from Colchis, and an extremely powerful sorceress (niece of Circe, another great sorceress), healer, and descendent of Helios (the sun god, guardian of oaths, and god of sight), and therefore, also empowered with with the gift of prophecy.

Oh boy!

Medea, had married, years ago, a Greek hero, Jason/Giasone, leader of the Argonauts, Prince of Iolcos, and great-grandson of the messenger god Hermes, as well.

Wow!

They married right after Medea helped Jason steal from Cochis (her home), the mythical and illustrious “Golden Fleece”, thanks to various “magical” potions of hers.

Wow!

They lived happily for a while, and their love produced two sons.

Yay!

And as the opera (as in the Euripides play) begins, we learn that Jason/Giasone has recently decided to abandon Medea, (boredom?), and has agreed to offer Creonte, the king Of Corinth, the famed “Golden Fleece”, in order to marry the lovely Glauce (Creonte’s daughter), as a token of his love and protection, as Jason/Giasone, has, of late, fallen in love with her.

Oh boy!

Of course, guess what, Medea is livid with pain.

Oh boy!

Act I introduces us to the lovely, innocent, Glauce, who prepares for her upcoming wedding to Jason/Giasone, nearby the decorative and awe inspiring “Golden Fleece”.

Wow!

Glauce is terrified at the idea that Medea, (Jason’s first wife) is nearby, and senses Medea’s ill intentions.

Oh boy!

A stranger arrives, and it is indeed Medea, who has come to try to claim Jason/Giasone, and pleads for him to return to her, as she is also, the mother of their two children.

Let’s listen to an excerpt of the beautiful aria, sang by Radvanovsky, pleading Jason/Giasone to come back to her:

So moving, tender and beautiful, and what gorgeous music.

Medea later, also threatens Glauce, and swears she will find a way to avenge her dire situation, and Jason’s decisions, as Jason/Giasone refuses to do all she asks.

Oh boy!

In Act II, Medea’s maid and confidante Neris, warns her that a mob is about to take down Medea, and that she should leave Corinth. Medea begs Glauce’s father, the king Creonte, to let her stay one more day, to see one last time her children. Creonte compassionately agrees.

Neris empathizes with Medea’s scorned and banished fate, and sings a beautiful, soothing aria, about her loyalty to Medea.

Let’s listen now, to a version from the 50’s, by Cossotto, of this peaceful and beautiful aria, which is one of the most gorgeous of the opera.

So moving and sad.

Jason/Giasone then, arrives, and agrees as well, to Medea’s request to see for one final day, her children, before leaving the kingdom.

Oh boy!

We then see and hear gorgeous, joyful choruses, as the wedding procession marches steadily towards the temple, praying to the god of love, to bless Jason/Giasone’ union to Glauce.

Oh boy!

Medea, now descending into full madness, then decides to pray herself, but to dark gods, to come to help her unfold her upcoming, ghastly, vile plan, and devises to send a poisoned diadem and a golden robe, as a wedding gifts to Glauce, to murder her.

Gasp! Oh no!

In Act III, as a thunderstorm breaks, Neris delivers Medea’s poisoned “gifts” to Glauce.

Oh no!

Glauce dies an agonizing death.

Gasp! Oh no!

To inflict even more pain to Jason/Giasone, Medea plans to kill her/their own two sons, but when Neris returns with the children, Medea cannot do it, and begs Neris to take her sons into the temple, for their own protection.

Oh boy!

Yet, when Medea hears the palace’s grief, over the passing of Glauce, mad Medea, finally carries out as well, the murders of her sons with a knife.

Gasp! Oh no!

Jason/Giasone rushes in, desperately seeks his sons, facing grave danger. Medea emerges covered in her children’ blood, and rushes to be engulfed in death, lying next to her children, as the temple goes up in flames, as Jason/Giasone faints in despair.

Gasp! So tragic.

And one would have liked to tell Medea, that her love for Jason/Giasone is no longer appropriate, when he abandons her, her love for him then, is misplaced. He no longer loves her, and she should have remembered that she is a powerful sorceress, that her children will be well provided for/taken care of, that she has friends, and that life loves her, and will provide more love for her.

Earth to Mars…

Then again, this is dramatic opera of course.

What to say of the production and the singers?

Wow!

I was blown away by the veracity, effectiveness, and beauty of David Mc Vicar’s production, which conveyed flawlessly, the tragic nature of this epic myth, which rests, almost solely, on Medea’s character: sumptuous, yet constricting, dark, gruesome, and at times golden hued, it exhibited impeccably to me, Medea’s rank and godly genetics, and yet also, her all consuming pain, from being scorned from her husband Jason/Giasone, about to marry another princess, and all her complex emotions and fate: Medea’s growing despair, resentment, wrath, despite her love for her family, as well as her exclusion/banishment from the kingdom, all, leading unfortunately, to her final madness.

Wow! wow! wow!

And what beautiful costumes for all, and great theatrical make up for the choruses.

Yay!

I loved in particular also, the beauty and great usage of the slanted mirror, to convey an even wider set, and conveying unusual perspectives for the audience.

Wow! wow! wow!

As for the singers, in addition to beautiful choruses throughout the opera, two performers, particularly stood out for me:

First and foremost, as mentioned earlier, last Tuesday evening, American soprano, Sondra Radvanovsky, in the dramatic title role, was superb, nuanced, powerful, in great control of her craft, and incredibly, despite her unspeakable acts, moving, as the great, scorned, and finally, mad Medea.

Bravo! bravo! bravo!

And wow! wow! wow!

And Ekaterina Gubanova, the Russian mezzo, was also incredible, as Medea’s wholesome, warm, and loyal maid and confidante, Neris, embodying beautifully empathetic friendship.

Bravo!

So to sum up my feelings about Cherubini’s epic “Medea”, seen last Tuesday evening, in great company: How, dark, mad, and devastating, what incredible new Medea, Radvanovsky embodies perfectly, and what gorgeous, classical, passionate, romantic, and enduring music as well, including a few awesome arias, as well as mesmerizing chorus creations!

Yay! and wow wow, wow!!!

Just grand!

And not to be missed!

Until next time friends!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊