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Jean-Philipe Rameau's Dardanus had an exciting premiere at the court of Louis XIV in 1739, at which his supporters enthusiastically supported his unique, dramatic music in the face of sturdy traditionalists. When the composer rewrote much of the opera for his new version of 1744, he abandoned gods and sea monsters; the result is a drama focussing sharply on the destinies of its human protagonists.
Sung in French with English surtitles. Concert performance in Oxford.
Gabriel von Eisenstein is facing five days in prison, allowing his wife, Rosalinda, some illicit time alone with her lover, Alfred. Eisenstein's maid, Adele, is also looking forward to spending the evening at a fancy dress ball given by the eccentric Prince Orlovsky. When the Prison Governor arrives to take Eistenstein to prison, he is instead introduced to Alfred (who is 'entertaining' Rosalinda) and arrests the lover believing him to be Rosalinda's husband. Meanwhile, at the ball, the plot thickens...
Sung in English with surtitles in English (and Welsh in Cardiff)
Based on Pushkin's masterpiece of Russian literature, Tchaikovsky's great opera tells of the fated love between the innocent Tatyana and the world-weary cynic Eugene Onegin. The opera includes the famous 'letter scene', a tour-de-force of the soprano repertoire, in which Tatyana dramatically and magnificently declares her true love for Onegin, a love that is tragically rejected. The ensuing maelstrom of emotions ends in duel between Onegin and his best friend, the poet, Lensky, which leaves Lensky dead and Onegin devastated. Years later, at the St Petersburg Ball, Onegin meets Tatyana again and realises his mistake, but now the married Tatyana is unable to accept his love.
Sung in Russian, with English and Welsh surtitles.
Janacek's last opera. Set in a Siberian prison, each act tells the story of a different prisoner reliving a crisis from his past. Themes of compassion, humanity and forgiveness raise this from the darkness.
Sung in English, with English and Welsh surtitles.
La voix humaine is a dialogue, but one in which the audience only ever hears one voice, as a woman and her lover agree to part during a single telephone conversation. Poulenc, in his most famous operatic work, creates a master piece out of the woman's growing realisation that it is all over, combined with her darkly comic frustrations with the telephone as a means of communication. While the central character of this piece is on the receiving end of a highly charged emotional break-up, she is neither passive nor pliant. While the man may have the upper hand in the romance, the strength of character, humanity and humour is definitely with the woman.
An American naval officer (Pinkerton) 'acquires' a 15 year old Geisha wife during a stay in Japan - but has no intention of staying with her. After a while he returns to the USA and marries his fiancee. Meanwhile, Butterfly waits for him for three years, cut off from her family, religion and culture by being an American wife. And she is now a mother. When he finally returns she is overjoyed, but he brings with him his new wife. Story originally published in a magazine.
Rigoletto, the hunchbacked court jester wants revenge. His beloved daughter, Gilda, has been abducted and seduced by the Duke and he hires a hit-man to assassinate him. Tragedy prevails in Verdi's masterpiece of love, lust and betrayal. Based on Hugo's Le roi s'amuse. First performed at La Fenice in Venice on 11 March 1851
Sung in Italian with English surtitles. Some scenes contain nudity.