William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, masters of Baroque music, join forces with director Luc Bondy in Paris to stage this brilliant, lesser-known masterwork by Handel. Superstar mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato shines as Hercules’ wife Dejanira, performing her demanding part with “affecting intensity and tireless stamina” (The New York Times).
Inspired by the ninth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Hercules is a highlight of Handel’s later output. A “musical drama” rather than a traditional opera, it was not originally written for the stage, but the music is as spectacular as any Handel ever wrote. This top-notch production, brimming with brio and subtlety under Bondy and Christie, proves that it can stack up against any giant of the opera genre.
Dejanira fears that her husband Hercules will never return from a lengthy absence. When he does finally return from his conquests, it is in the company of Iole, a strikingly beautiful slave. Stricken mad by jealousy, Dejanira gifts Hercules with a ceremonial garment she believes will restore his love—but it is, unbeknownst to her, soaked in poison and becomes the agent of Hercules’ demise. Tormented by guilt, Dejanira descends into madness, while Hercules, set aloft on eagles’ wings, takes his place among the gods in Olympus.
Picture: © Eric Mahoudeau.