L' Anima del Filosofo - Joseph Haydn - Cecilia Bartoli
Royal Opera House - Covent Garden
22 October 2001,
I saw L' anima del filosofo (The Soul
of the Philosopher) (a version of
Orpheus myth), with music by Joseph
Haydn and libretto by Carlo Francesco
Badini. Cecilia Bartoli, the world's
most celebrated mezzo-soprano (although
she can tackle soprano roles with
ease) played the role of both Euridice
and Genio. Roberto Sacca performed
the part of Orfeo. Gerald Finley played
Creonte. Brindley Sherratt played
Plutone and Alison Rayner played Baccante.
This was Haydn's last opera. Intersetingly,
he wrote it for an earlier Covent
Garden Theatre when he visited London
in 1791, but, for some reason, it
was never performed. It finally premiered
in 1951 with Callas.
And the story goes: Euridice laments
her forthcoming marriage to Arideo.
The chorus warns her of the monstrous
savages that lurk in the wood, but
the despairing Euridice says she is
prepared to die on the pyre that has
been prepared for her. Orfeo calms
the savages, first by playing his
harp and then by singing of his love
for Euridice. The savages release
their victim and the young lovers
sing of their love.
Creonte (Euridice's father) is persuaded
to allow his daughter to marry Orfeo
instead of Arideo and gives them his
blessing. The lovers sing of the joy
in their hearts. A sound of war is
heard and Orfeo goes off to investigate
it, reassuring Euridice that he will
soon return. Left to face the danger
alone, his wife is terrified. She
is almost captured by one of Arideo's
men, but as she cries for help a snake
bites her. She calls out to Orfeo,
but he cannot hear her. She dies alone,
singing of her love for him.
Orfeo returns to find Euridice's lifeless
body and is overcome with grief and
rage. Creonte hears of his daughters
death an in a fury cries out for vengeance.
A chorus morns Euridice and Orfeo
and Creonte grieve together. Creonte
is concerned about Orfeo and wonders
what will become of him now that he
has lost his beloved, for life without
love is meaningless.
Orfeo consults the Sibyl, which reveals
to be the Spirit of Love (Genio),
who promises to lead him to the Underworld
to search for his lost love. Genio
says that he will soon find happiness
if he is able to temper his desire
with constancy and valour. Orfeo is
overjoyed. He will face the terrors
of the Underworld if only to see Euridice
for one more moment. He proceeds to
In Hades, on the shores of the river
Lethe, Genio leads Orfeo past a chorus
of unhappy shadows and a horde of
howling Furies. Orfeo asks Plutone
for mercy. Impressed by Orfeo's love
for Euridice, Plutone grants him permission
to search for her in the Elysian Fields.
He finds Euridice. Genio warns him
not to look at her or he will lose
her forever, but he cannot resist.
Orfeo loses her for a second time.
Tormented by grief, he longs to die.
His grieving is interrupted by a chorus
of Baccante praising love and pleasure
("Vieni, vieni, amato Orfeo").
Orfeo renounces the pleasures of the
world. The Baccante offers him a drink,
telling him that it will make him
happy ("Bevi, bevi in questa
tazza"). He drinks from the cup
and realises that he has taken poison.
Orfeo dies. The Baccante set off for
the island of pleasure, but a storm
arises and Baccante drowns. (I found
quite a lot of humour in Hades, like
when the lost souls take a communal
shower and the Baccante were far too
friendly to be alarming or scary.)