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16 March 2014

Back to the Opera

Haymarket Opera company’s Actéon

altar dedicated to Diana on the rightmost periaktos
Once again I had the pleasure of painting sets for a Haymarket Opera company production, this time of Charpentier’s Actéon with a pastoral prelude of Le Jugement de Pan and an interspersed divertissement (all orchestrated by Ellen Hargis). For Actéon a new set, a woodland scene, complemented the reused pastoral set from Orphée. Research into the cult of Diana in the Roman world informed details like the ruined altar, and the woods were meant to be understood as the other side of the temple-crowned hillock of the pastoral. The Chicago press appreciated the performance, and with regard to the audience’s appreciation I quote John Van Rhein’s review, a hopeful metaphor for the possibilities of public appreciation of classical imagery and culture generally:

The urge to breathe fresh contemporary life into these forgotten musical gems from the late 17th century speaks directly to the artistic mission of Haymarket Opera Company. The enterprising Chicago troupe did so again with its super-stylish performances of two delightful pastorales by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, "Acteon" and "Le Jugement de Pan," over the weekend at Mayne Stage in the city's Rogers Park neighborhood...

As with every Haymarket recreation, there was an interesting paradox at work. While the performers adhered to an artificial vocabulary of declamation, movement, gesture and facial expression – meticulously drawn from French singing and acting manuals of the period – everything was done with such fluid elegance that it didn't come off as musty or quaint – indeed, the studied poses and other period refinements took one directly into Charpentier's world. It was a nice place to visit.

The Chicago Tribune review is available here

the Chicago Classical Review here

and the Sun Times review here

You can see a clip from the forthcoming video about the Actéon production by Garry Grasinski here.