‘Giasone’ leads audience on romp through the Baroque | AspenTimes.com

‘Giasone’ leads audience on romp through the Baroque

Susannah Luthi
Special to The Aspen Times
Jason Badger rehearses for a production of "Giasone," part of the Aspen Music Festival's "Grand Tour of the Baroque" mini-festival. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Fresh from his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting Renee Fleming in Handel’s Rodelinda, Harry Bicket, renowned interpreter of Baroque repertoire, is conducting Francesco Cavalli’s comic opera Giasone at the Wheeler Opera House.

It’s part of this week’s “Grand Tour of the Baroque,” an Aspen Music Festival and School mini-festival. The opera opens today with a 7 p.m. performance at the Wheeler.

“We’ve brought the best here for Giasone,” said Asadour Santourian, the festival’s artistic advisor and administrator .

The score is played on period instruments, and a dynamic cast of festival students bring the story of Jason and the Argonauts and Jason’s ill-fated romance with Medea to life with a comic twist.

“I love Cavalli’s music,” said contralto Emma Curtis, who came from the Staatstheater Stuttgart in Germany to work with Bicket and sing the title role of Giasone. “It’s very witty, very clever, and at the same time very poignant and moving.”

Complete with cross-dressing, skirt-chasing, and complex characterizations, the story deals with the Greek hero Jason (here called by his Italian name, Giasone), who is supposed to be accomplishing brave deeds during his quest for the Golden Fleece. But as it turns out, he is more interested in women ” deserting his first love, Isifile (soprano Arianna Wyatt), for the enchanting Medea (mezzo-soprano Gemma Coma-Albert), who has dumped Egeo (tenor Kalil Wilson) for Giasone.

Unlike the traditional version of the tale, the opera turns out happily. But despite its gags, the opera’s comedy is countered with glimpses of tragedy.

“It’s the way Italian comedy works in this tradition,” said Curtis, whose specialty is Baroque repertoire. “The one highlights the other ” the tragedy seems deeper contrasted with the comedy. The public empathizes with the sadness or loneliness of characters, then the comedy is so strong because the audience is dying to laugh.”

Directed by Aspen Opera Theater Center Director Edward Berkeley and conducted by Bicket, Giasone continues its run with performances on Thursday and Saturday. Festival passholders and donors can take advantage of a special deal for this final opera of the season, getting the $50 ticket for $20. For others, tickets are $50 and $26.

Berkeley describes the opera as “one of the greatest works of the subject, along with the likes of Handel and Monteverdi (who was Cavalli’s teacher), for contemporary revivals. With comic, fast-paced plots and emotional and forceful scores, Cavalli’s works suit any operagoer’s demands.

“Giasone’s popularity is totally justified,” Curtis added. “The music really deserves its place beside Monteverdi. And it’s hilarious.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 925-9042.

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