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Médée


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Tragédie mise en musique in a prologue and five acts by Marc‐Antoine Charpentier to a libretto by Thomas Corneille; Paris, Académie Royale de Musique (Opéra), 4 December 1693.

The title role was sung by Marie Le Rochois; Creusa was sung by Mlle Moreau, Creon by Dun and Jason by Du Mesny, and Jean Bérain designed the scenery and costumes.Médée, Charpentier's only work for the Académie Royale de Musique, was perhaps the most important opera produced there in the decade after the death of Lully. The theorist and lexicographer Sébastien de Brossard considered it ‘the one opera without exception in which one can learn the things most essential to good composition’. André Campra later included portions of the music in his pastiche opera Télémaque. Louis XIV personally complimented Charpentier on the work, and the king's brother and his eldest son attended several performances. The Mercure galant favourably mentioned the Italian songs (2.vii) and praised in particular the performance of Le Rochois:The passions are so vivid, particularly in Medea, that when this role was but declaimed it did not fail to make a great impression on the listeners. Judge for yourself if, having given rise to beautiful music, Mlle Rochois, one of the best singers in the world and who performs with warmth, finesse and intelligence, shone in this role and made the most of its beauties. All of Paris is enchanted with the way that this excellent singer performs Medea, and one cannot fail to admire her.While Titon du Tillet and others proclaimed Médée a critical success, Brossard pointed out that it was not successful with the public. The Journal de l'Opéra lists no performances after 15 March 1694, but it was revived at Lille on 17 November 1700.

The passions are so vivid, particularly in Medea, that when this role was but declaimed it did not fail to make a great impression on the listeners. Judge for yourself if, having given rise to beautiful music, Mlle Rochois, one of the best singers in the world and who performs with warmth, finesse and intelligence, shone in this role and made the most of its beauties. All of Paris is enchanted with the way that this excellent singer performs Medea, and one cannot fail to admire her.

In the prologue rustics and shepherds praise Louis XIV. They summon to earth Victory, Bellone, goddess of war, and Glory. Victory, who has long lived in France, will not favour those who envy Louis’ fame: they seek to prolong war, while Louis wishes to bring peace to his kingdom.

Act 1

A public place The sorceress Medea has gained Jason's love (and has borne him two children) in return for help in obtaining the golden fleece; they scheme to have King Pelias of Thessaly murdered, but are discovered and flee to Corinth. When the act begins Medea complains that Jason now loves the princess Creusa who is betrothed to Oronte, prince of Argos. Medea needs the protection of Oronte and King Creon of Corinth to fend off the impending attack by Thessaly. She reveals her plan for a dreadful revenge should Creusa steal Jason's heart. Jason tells Medea that their children are safe in the care of Creusa. In return, Medea agrees to give her superb robe to the princess. Jason, alone with Arcas, weighs his debt to Medea against his love for Creusa. A fanfare heralds Oronte's arrival. The Corinthian and Argian soldiers enact in song and dance their battle with the Thessalians.

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Subjects: Opera.


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