TALES of mythical gods and kings were regular subjects for the early composers, who, rather like journalists, never let the “facts” spoil a good story – though what was fact and what was fiction in the Greek Myths is open to endless academic debate.
The excellent English Touring Opera company, this year accompanied by the Old Street Band and their period instruments, has chosen three of these operas for the autumn tour – Monteverdi’s now staple The Coronation of Poppea, Cavalli’s rarely-performed Jason, and one of Handel’s huge operatic oeuvre, Agrippina.
Bath Theatre Royal audiences had a treat with the first two of the operas, with a full house for the lushly musical and highly immoral tale of Poppea, and the more adventurous audience to see what Cavalli made of the story of Jason and his Argonauts and his Golden Fleece.
The heroic Jason, sung by countertenor Clint van der Linde, has ditched the mother of his children, Isiphile, in her Lemnos home, and set his course for the scheming Medea (Hannah Pedley) in her Colchis palace.
She has said a cruel goodbye to her former lover, King Egeus, to make way for Jason.
While the newly “married” lovers are in the throes of passion upstairs, Isiphile’s spy and Egeus’s spy meet up and discover a community of interest.
Hercules, Jason’s commander, persuades Jason to board the Argo again and fight for the Fleece, but Medea weaves a spell to protect him, and hops on the Argo too.
After some heaven or hell sent storms, and a bit of murder that goes wrong, Jason and Medea are reunited with their old lovers, and all’s right with the world.
This wonderfully bonkers story is woven with plangent music and delightful characters, all beautifully played by this international cast.
There is another chance to see it, with BOTH other operas, at Exeter from 20th to 23rd November, and it’s well worth the journey.