Jérémie Rhorer turns the spotlight on Karina Gauvin in the lead role of Spontini's spectacular opera based on the eponymous work by Voltaire
Opera in three acts (1819)
Libretto by Armand-Michel Dieulafoy and Charles Brifaut, after Voltaire
Jérémie Rhorer direction
Karina Gauvin Olympie
Kate Aldrich Statira
Mathias Vidal Cassandre
Josef Wagner Antigone
Patrick Bolleire Hierophante, a Priest
Philippe Souvagie Hermas
Le Cercle de l’Harmonie
Vlaams Radio Koor
Due to illness, Charles Castronovo (Cassandre) is replaced by Mathias Vidal and Conor Biggs (Hermas) by Philippe Souvagie.
Approximate running time
1 st part: 55mn - Intermission: 20mn - 2nd part: 1h20
Gaspare Spontini trained in Naples and experienced both triumph and failure in Paris in the early 19th century, a period characterised by a passion among audiences for Italian composers. After his humble beginnings in the comic opera genre in his native country, his fascination for Napoleon I led him to settle in Paris in 1803, where he strove to assimilate the French style in the manner of Cherubini. La Vestale, his first attempt at this genre, was a great success (the Institut de France hailed it as “the best work of the decade”) and his name became known throughout Europe. Two years later, his opera Fernando Cortez confirmed his status as a fixture on the musical scene. However times were changing and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty, among whom Spontini nevertheless managed to retain a few connections, was accompanied by new tastes in music. His tragedy Olympie was considered by many to be one of his best compositions, but was not as well received as anticipated when it was performed in 1819, and marked the end of his relationship with France. Out of pique or in response to an opportunity, Spontini accepted an invitation from the King of Prussia and became a Kapellmeister in Berlin. However, Olympie, with its libretto based on a late tragedy by Voltaire, deftly combines the elegance of the classical age with the requirements of grand opera in the French style, allowing its composer to display his skill in contrast and characterisation, alternating between moving duets and large-scale dramatic tableaux. It influenced musicians as diverse as Rossini, Berlioz and Wagner.