Francesco Cavalli, Gli amori d’Apollo e di Dafne
21. 24. 25/05 > 20:30
22/05 > 18:00
Italian, Spanish > subtitles FR/NL
While the theatre's façade falls in ruins, voices from a plant world ring out as if torn from a singing, suffering body. The festival is devoting a cycle to the work of the Venetian poet and librettist Gian Francesco Busenello. Director Beatriz Catani, accompanied by conductor Gabriel Garrido, is the first to attempt this experiment. In Cavalli's baroque opera Gli amori d'Apollo e di Dafne - a pastoral fable inspired by Ovid's Metamorphoses - they are using their distinctive approach to restore its caustic topicality.
Daphne and Apollo's love story merges into the transience of time and calls on the mythical game of transformation. A plaintive ode to fragile existence.
Giovanni Francesco Busenello
Direction and musical adaptation:
Set and Costume Design:
Assistant to the Director:
Ensemble Elyma directed by Gabriel Garrido
Guadalupe del Moral
Viola da gamba:
Viola da gamba:
Andrea De Carlo
Tatiana Babut du Mares
François De Rudder
Leonardo García Alarcón
Adriana Mastrángelo, mezzo-soprano (Dafne)
María Jesús Pavón:
Nahuel Di Pierro:
mezzo-soprano (Venere/Ninfa/stand in Dafne)
León Dogodny, Nestor Ducó, Héctor Magnoli, Rosa Marco, Andrés Martinez, Juan José Schiaffino,
Production manager Buenos Aires:
Assistant musical direction:
Production manager Transparant:
Production manager Assistant:
Jeroen De Keyser, Taal-Ad-Visie, Michel Bastiaensen
Translation texts by actors:
Eddy Willaert, Hans De Ley
Viviane Coubergs, Ariana Cuevas
For the set, we thank:
Atelier C19, Imatex, Vabotec, Kunstgraswereld, Daniel, Genni, Michael, Pablo, Pieter
supports Ensemble Elyma
Muziektheater Transparant (Antwerpen), KunstenFESTIVALdesArts
Concertgebouw Brugge, Productiehuis Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Schouwburg)
La Monnaie / De Munt, Kaaitheater, KunstenFESTIVALdesArtsBack to top
The story of a metamorphosis
Daphne did not understand, or did not want to understand, what love was. Apollo fell in love with her and tried hard through flattery and prayer to get Daphne to submit to his wishes. However, as all attempts proved hopeless he finally began pursuing her, and when she reached the banks of the river Peneus she turned herself into a bay-tree.
Busenello, Gli Amori d’Apollo e di Dafne, Preface.
This is the story of a metamorphosis.
Or rather a story of successive metamorphoses.
That of Daphne into a bay-tree as told by Ovid.
That of a fable into an opera in the Baroque period.
That of an opera by Busenello/Cavalli from the past into a production by Garrido/Catani in the present.
Three stages in time. Three artistic forms in movement, testifying to mutations in the history of man and the arts and the impulse to create something new.
1 BC. Exiled far from Rome, the Latin poet Ovid embarks upon telling the story of the world and the primitive chaos abounding during Caesar’s apotheosis. His story links legends about the transformation of human beings or gods into animals and plants, of which the story of Daphne – Diana’s nymph who turned into a tree to flee love – is one.
This mythological epic traverses the centuries, firing the imagination of generations. Its numerous translations encourage an extraordinary fascination for it during the Renaissance period: artists seize upon Ovid’s Metamorphoses, turning them into paintings, music, sculptures, poetry and theatre.
1597 AD. In Florence, the composer Giacoppo Peri and librettist Ottavio Rinuccini are inspired by the legend of Daphne and create the very first opera (unfortunately lost). Eurydice marks the birth of the genre in 1600. Seven years later, it is Monteverdi’s turn to draw from Ovid, taking the fable of Orpheus to create Orfeo, opera’s first masterpiece. In 1640, the ‘dramma per musica’ – until that point the preserve of private performances for the upper echelons of society – became available to the public and soon took over in Venice theatres. Francesco Cavalli, Monteverdi’s gifted disciple and subsequently his favoured collaborator, embarks on the path forged earlier by his master and as its composer and instrumentalist, as well as organiser and impresario, writes Le Nozze di Teti e Peleo. Born to create for the stage, this genius wants to go further, but to do so he needs an outstanding librettist: the golden rule of nascent opera is that music is “the servant of the word”. The outstanding librettist is the Venetian Gian Francesco Busenello: a lawyer by training, he is also a writer and a member of the ‘Incogniti’, an academy reputed for its free-thinkers and spirit of artistic research.
With his first libretto, Busenello makes a veiled reference to the very first opera by making Daphne the subject once again, while strongly asserting his independence as far as the myth is concerned, as well as his modernity as a writer. For him the metamorphosis is a creative principle as well as symbolising the changes seen that century: a century where religious persecution, plagues, a relaxation of morals, the decadence of princes, not to mention the shocking scientific concept of heliocentrism, challenge people’s conceptions of the world, of God and of man. Like his Baroque contemporaries, Busenello translates this upheaval with a liking for artifice, ambiguity and irony and reacts to it philosophically with epicureanism blended with scepticism.
As an artist keen to innovate, he transforms the myth of Daphne in his own way, borrowing from the genres in vogue (ballet, pastoral, comedy) and from poets (Dante, Petrarch, Marino) to produce an innovative bucolic plot with something of a personal “montage” to it. In order to develop viewpoints on the relationship of power and seduction between the sexes, he interweaves the impossible love affair between Apollo and Daphne with other problematic relationships: the divine one between Tithonus and Aurora and the human one between Cephalus and Procris. Rejecting the conventions of unity, he increases the amount of action taking place simultaneously and changes of place and focuses on just one or two characters – just like in the movies! As a writer with musical sensitivity, he modulates the rhythms of his lines, puts arguments in the recitatives, carves out dialogues and surprises with innovative images; suddenly his text trembles with contrasted human passions and an underlying profound mediation on the brevity of life, people’s vulnerability, the ephemeral nature of love and the sublimation of art by all terrestrial vicissitudes: elements which enable Cavalli to deploy freely his dramatic and lyrical registers. The result is a pastoral opera full of spirit featuring choruses and ballets where the composer demonstrates his mastery already in the variety of tone, expressiveness of the recitative and beauty of the lamento – qualities which lead him to dominate the operatic scene in Venice for some thirty years.
2005 AD. In Argentina, Beatriz Catani and Gabriel Garrido are rehearsing Cavalli’s Gli Amori d’Apollo e di Dafne, working towards nothing less than one of the first contemporary creations of this opera. The musical director – a Baroque specialist – and the director – whose focus is on experimental theatre – each feel the same need: to encourage what resonates in this ancient work today to be heard by looking for ways to perform it that are in tune with our era. Their process of metamorphosis goes through the performers’ bodies and voices, the ones breathing life back into the ‘recitar cantando’ of yesteryear: “There is no doubt that Baroque opera music conveys the ‘affetti’ (affects); in other words, it contains an enormous desire for expression in the way it is constructed. But to avoid opera being performed like a beautiful product of a bygone age, we have to bring about a friction with the singers’ own bodies: they are the very substance of emotion. This twofold performance of physical emotion and music is at the heart of our project.”
Immediately they are extremely interested in the recitative, this very particular way of speaking while singing. They both agree that some sections of the libretto removed from the score shall be performed like recitatives without music, not just to take up the work’s theatricality but to make the slightest modulations of the voice and the full spectrum of verbal nuances and textures emitted by the singers’ bodies audible as well.
As for the rest, Gabriel Garrido is working on inflexions in the singing and the work’s orchestration. From the single basso continuo given in the score, he is reinventing the voices’ instrumental support with the aim of expressing all the ‘affetti’ within it: “I’d like the emotional language to be immediately accessible to the audience so as to translate as effectively as possible the sense of a revolutionary, provocative expression which should shock and arouse passions. The music of this period – where direct emotion has to be perceived by the audience without any requirement for translation – associated with the visual aspect and the rapidity of the contemporary concept should be able to convey these ‘affetti’ more directly than if we were to remain within the conventional forms of opera.”
As there is no musical recording of Apollo e Dafne, Beatriz Catani first immersed herself in the libretto and found herself affected straightaway. “It really highlights human frailty, the limits of man and the passing of time. It’s really interesting to look for a form on stage which reveals and exposes this vulnerability. In contrast to the beauty of the music and the theatrical space we have the degeneration of bodies, the finiteness of existence, uncertainty and our impotence in the face of time passing. Even love, man’s liberating passion, cannot resist time. I’m also interested in disagreements, polyphony and the voices which start from a position of rationality and develop a particular discourse. It is a work of concepts in which – in a very modern way – each point of view has an opposing one. There is no morality.”
In this polyphony, the director identifies games of doubles and mirroring: between the different women and their visions and experiences of love (Daphne who rejects it, Procris who has lost it / Aurora who enjoys it, Venus who makes use of it for vengeance / old Cirilla who despises it, ugly Philena who desires it); between the gods who love (Aurora, Apollo), the humans who are loved (Cephalus, Daphne), and those who – men and gods – are abandoned (Tithonus, Procris); between the young who want to love and the old who cannot anymore, between immortal gods and humans who aspire to immortality, between commentators on the situation and the actors in it, all losing in the end.
The plot’s philosophical and narrative richness unleashes strange and shimmering visions on stage in chiaroscuro, developed from the Baroque principle that “all is theatre and metamorphosis”.
Beatriz dreams of a space moving throughout the entire performance, admitting to its theatrical artifice then turning into a plant world which disperses in the end. Transparent boxes of all sizes will come down from the flies – just like Baroque stage devices. Inside will be a bow and arrows, fragments of statues, a cricket and a mechanical heart, immediately buried like a treasure beating beneath the floor of the stage. As many boxes as there are people and things to preserve from wear and tear and etiolation, and quests for immortality realised…
She then arranges the actors and singers on stage into three zones governed by three different acting codes: Daphne’s area (and that of characters associated with her); Aurora’s area (with Tithonus, Cephalus and Procris); and the area of the six elderly actors who accompany this mythical fictional tale in counterpoint through their personal accounts of their past and their passions – like elderly “doubles”, living witnesses of the ravages of time but still people of flesh and blood moulded by passions, capable of remembering them, of reliving them … Sighs, complaints, panting, graffiti and pierced hearts echoing the sublime singing: the entire Baroque is in these contradictions, these excesses which are still ours. And perhaps more than ever in this third millennium of questions of identity and troubled relationships, exalted sex and ended love affairs, instant progress and struck down utopias, extended life and time still ticking by, a culture obsessed with youth at any price and quality on the cheap, this mythological and bucolic love affair between Apollo and Daphne still sings out to us. All we have to do is listen.
Isabelle DumontBack to top