Venus and Adonis

By Jane Penistan

The Modern Baroque Opera's production of this work is of high quality. The elegance and style of the early eighteenth century music is beautifully realized in both the orchestral and vocal rendering.

The Garden of Love is a serenata for two voices. Thus the singing and playing of the music is all important. As the original production of this work was probably sung by castrati, with Adonis having the higher voice, the directors, Kate Hutchison and Marc Destrubé have elected to have this role sung by soprano Jenny Such, and that of the alto, Venus, by countertenor David Lee, thus preserving the original vocal line. The solo and duo performances of these two singers is impeccable. With almost no action, in keeping with the style of early eighteenth century production, the longing, painful sorrow and passion are conveyed through the voices of the singers. The orchestra, under Marc Destrubé, admirably supports the singers and introduces changes of mood.

Adonis' orchestral voice of the trumpet of Bui Peterson is outstanding in its clarity. As this is a production of the MBO Company, the set is a modern representation. The stage is filled with a lofty maze of thorny branches crowned with roses. The symbol of love surmounts the intertwined branches and boughs symbolic of the interweaving of the themes of the contrapuntal orchestral score. Dressed in simple classical Greek costume, the lovers ultimately find their way through the maze to a joyful reunion.

As this opera is sung in Italian, it would be helpful to audience members who have no Italian to have a brief translation of the libretto. Though the music and the few movements of the singers do convey the sense of the arias, a little written help would be appreciated.

The Amazement. Domenico Scarlatti.

This amusing little satire was written as an intermezzo. It is the only known comic opera by Domenico Scarlatti. The libretto by Gigli was considered so scurrilous that the first performance was banned. The MBO uses an English rhyming couplets translation.

On a chequerboard-floored stage, bare except for a harpsichord and a bench, the flamboyantly dressed cast romp through this politically incorrect work.

Countertenor David Lee shows his versatility in the role of Liscione, a castrato who persuades Dirindina (Phoebe Macrae) to leave her adoring teacher, Don Carissimo (Paul Verheyen), with his promise of stardom.

In contrast to Venus and Adonis, The Amazement is a very physical production, well sung and admirably played by the orchestra. The fun is there with the underlying criticism of fashionable Rome.

Once again MBO has fulfilled its mandate to bring little known works to local audiences and to perform these works stylishly and well.