Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Opens Spring Season With HEIRS OF TANTALUS, 2/22

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts Opens Spring Season With HEIRS OF TANTALUS, 2/22

Salon/Sanctuary Concerts opens its spring season with HEIRS OF TANTALUS, a program featuring Grammy-nominated harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, acclaimed countertenor José Lemos, soprano Jessica Gould, and noted actors (TBA).

The third in a series of site-specific, cutting-edge interdisciplinary events, HEIRS OF TANTALUS intertwines mythic characters of Greek tragedy with notorious historical figures of the depraved court of Nero, whose actual crimes dwarf anything the Greek imagination could conjure.

The magnificent interior of the exquisite Broad Street Ballroom, a former bank designed to replicate a Roman villa, sets the stage for this unusual event.

HEIRS OF TANTALUS is a site-specific, interdisciplinary piece of music and theater that incorporates material from the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus and Euripides, biting commentary of the Roman historian Suetonius, and excerpts from the operas and cantatas of Monteverdi, Scarlatti and Handel that reflect the ways in which both Greek myth and Roman history were refracted through the prism of the baroque.

Actors represent myth and singers represent real people as the juxtaposition of text and aria elucidates the parallel between myth and history. Orestes' heartbreaking monologue of exile is echoed in the touching laments of Ottone in both the Monteverdi and Handel operas, while Clytemnestra's beseeching of her son for mercy followed by Agrippina's arias offers a chilling parallel of the two murdered mothers.

The Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus limns the path from barbarism to reason. Its characters-members of the House of Atreus-are cursed to engage in an endless exchange of revenge in retribution for the acts of their forebear Tantalus, who earned the wrath of the gods by challenging their omniscience. The cycle of revenge, which peaks in Orestes' murder of his mother Clytemnestra, is broken at the end of the drama by Athena, who arrives to lift the curse and replace revenge with reason.

L'Incoronazione di Poppea of Monteverdi and Agrippina of Handel dramatize the lurid historical figures of Nero's family, who are waist-deep in barbarism by the time we meet them in each opera. Nero's mother Agrippina stopped at nothing to get her son on the throne, murdering his step-brother and her own husband, the emperor Claudius, who was also her uncle. A sexual relationship between mother and son is recorded in several historical sources, notably in The Twelve Caesars by the historian Suetonius, who was their contemporary. The scheming Poppea, who let nothing stand in her path to marriage with Nero, makes appearances in the two operas as well, as does the honorable Ottone, her framed and exiled lover whom she ruthlessly jilted in her path to power.

Drawing an arc from the progress of Greece to the corruption of Rome, the program draws one's attention as well to the origins of the operatic art forM. Shortly before Monteverdi composed L'Incoronazione di Poppea, opera was invented by the Florentine Camerata as an attempt to recreate ancient Greek theater. Sung text accompanied by music was imagined to be the most authentic evocation of the ancient Greek actor and lyre, and the new form of opera flourished in the late Italian Renaissance.

As a suggestion of that era, the harpsichord will not only accompany the singers, but also the actors.

Tickets at $20-$100 can be purchased on the Salon/Sanctuary website
or by calling Showclix at 1 888/718-4253

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