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La Calisto

Sydney Conservatorium of Music Opera School presents: LA CALISTO, Music by Francesco Cavalli, Libretto by Giovanni Faustini, in the Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Philip St Sydney. 20 May, 23 May, 25 May, 27 May.

LA CALISTO was first performed in Venice in 1651. It virtually disappeared from the repertoire until the 1970’s when the score was rediscovered and its performance history effectively restarted. Says the Artistic Director and Senior Lecturer in Conducting and Opera Studies, Dr Stephen Mould:

LA CALISTO has emerged as a major opera by the standards of any era, a genuine lost masterpiece that rivals other works by its composer, Francesco Cavalli, as well as his more visible teacher, Claudio Monteverdi.

Beautifully prepared and conducted by Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, the Early Music Ensemble supported the young singers with tact and strength. The work Directed by Elsie Edgerton-Till, on a simple school-of-arts type platform/stage with a curtained raised aperture, Designed by Isabella Andronos in modern dress costumes, Ms Edgwrton-Till has her actor/singers investigate an 80’s hip physical style of a brash, even vulgar, American film teenage action and re-action to the hyper sexual ruses of Roman Gods and mere mortals, the subject content of the actual libretto: the interaction between a besotted Jupiter (Tristan Entwistle) and Calisto (Samantha Lestavel) and Diana (Viktoria Bolonia) and Endymion (Rebecca Hart). The Director’s choice gives access to the story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, even if it diminishes its intentions – it creates an easy kind of empathy at the expense of what could be a noble tragedy. I think.

It was interesting to reflect that this Italian Opera concerning itself with licentious sexual impiety was playing at the same time in Venice, the centre of the trading world of its time, as the Puritan, Oliver Cromwell’s attack and banning of all theatre in England was taking place.

These young singers were at stretch with the demands of this material but seemed to relish the obstacle of the musical sophistication and the ‘oration and rhetorical delivery’ stylistics. I enjoyed, particularly, the work of Mr Entwistle in the demanding sing of Jupiter/and his faux Diana, Jeremy Dube, as Mercury, and the cheeky performance by Joshua Oxley, as Pan, whilst Aimee O’Neil was impressive in her second act solo as Juno. The acting of the company was sufficient if not believable except as bemused/amused parody/travesty.

A difficult work pleasantly performed and exposed by the Vocal and Opera Studies Division at the Conservatorium of Music.