Handel's 'Imeneo'

From Glimmerglass Opera

Glimmerglass Opera's 'Imeneo'

A glowering Rosmene (soprano Amanda Pabyan) is forced to choose between Imeneo (center) and Tirinto, played by John Tessier and Michael Maniaci. George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera hide caption

itoggle caption George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera

WHO'S WHO?

John Tessier ............... Imeneo

Amanda Pabyan ....... Rosmene

Michael Maniaci ............. Tirinto

Megan Monaghan ........ Clomiri

Craig Phillips ............... Argenio

Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra and Chorus

William Lacey, conductor

THE HIT SINGLE

In the furious aria In mezzo a voi dui, Rosmene tells her two suitors that only her heart can answer their appeals. Here's soprano Amanda Pabyan with the aria's final "da capo," including one of the most stunning high "F-naturals" you'll ever hear!

Opera and baseball mingle in Cooperstown

In Cooperstown, N.Y., merchants cater to music lovers who flock to the Glimmerglass Opera Festival, and sports fans drawn to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bruce Scott hide caption

itoggle caption Bruce Scott

The Village of Cooperstown, in upstate New York, is surely one of the best-known small towns in America. A few years back, it showed up in an award-winning book chronicling its storied history and the life of its pioneering founder, William Cooper. Long before that, it became famous as the model location for books such as Leatherstocking Tales, by William Cooper's son, the novelist James Fennimore Cooper.

Perhaps even more famously, Cooperstown is the legendary home of America's "national pastime," and the actual home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame — a true Mecca for legions of sports fans.

In recent years, however, Cooperstown has also became an annual gathering place for another group of aficionados — opera fans. The village lies on the south end of Otsego Lake — a lake the Native Americans of Leatherstocking Tales called "Glimmerglass." Just a few miles north of town, on the east edge of the lake, is Glimmerglass Opera, home to one of America's finest and most prestigious summer opera festivals.

Over the years, Glimmerglass Opera has been acclaimed for incisive presentations of unusual operas, and Handel's Imeneo is a good example. It was his next-to-last opera, and it's hardly what opera-goers had come to expect from Handel. The music is brilliant, including some choral numbers that Handel later lifted for use in Messiah. But it's a small-scale piece, without the historical sweep and spectacular set pieces featured in many of Handel's other operas, and it has only five characters.

Imeneo also has an odd-ball of a story. There's a love triangle, with two guys who want to marry the same girl. After a quandary during which she denounces them both and feigns a nervous breakdown, she makes the decidedly non-operatic decision to go with honor and duty instead of true love.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone brings us a Glimmerglass Opera production that truly lives up to the opera's quirky nature. The title character sings his big aria while bringing down a bevy of ducks with a shotgun. And, during a dysfunctional dinner, the lead soprano nails one of her onstage colleagues smack in the nose with a dinner roll!

The Story of 'Imeneo'

Imeneo (John Tessier) and Tirinto (Michael Maniaci)

Imeneo, still in his female disguise, peers from the window at a distraught Tirinto, who loves the woman Imeneo has claimed in marriage. George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera hide caption

itoggle caption George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera
Megan Monaghan and Amanda Pabyan

As Clomiri (left), Megan Monaghan loves the same man who has laid claim to Rosmene, played by Amanda Pabyan. George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera hide caption

itoggle caption George Mott/Glimmerglass Opera

ACT 1: Two young women, Rosmene and Clomiri have been kidnapped by pirates. Rosmene's sweetheart, Tirinto, and Clomiri's father, Argenio, are lamenting the women's fate.

But before long, the chorus announces the arrival of Imeneo, a brave young man who has a trick or two up his unusually flouncy sleeve. Dressed as a woman, he surprised the kidnappers while they were sleeping, killed them, and rescued the damsels in distress. Imeneo uses his grand entrance as an opportunity to stand, center stage, and change back into his masculine garb.

In return for his heroism, Imeneo claims the hand of Rosmene in marriage. Argenio, the local patriarch, agrees, leaving Tirinto jealous and heartsick. Rosmene has a choice to make.

The girls return, and we learn that Clomiri is in love with Imeneo — which may or may not be a problem. If Rosmene chooses Tirinto, perhaps Imeneo will settle down with Clomiri. If she chooses Imeneo, both Tirinto and Clomiri will be out of luck. Rosmene feels her choice is between desire and duty. She loves Tirinto, but owes a mortal debt to Imeneo.

There's certainly no doubt in Imeneo's heart. He says he saved his "turtledove," Rosmene, and killed the "hawks" who threatened her. To demonstrate, he grabs a shotgun and brings down a bevy of unfortunate ducks while singing his big, act-ending aria.

ACT 2:

Increasingly distraught by her dilemma, Rosmene appeals to the gods for guidance. Argenio urges her to do the right thing — meaning the honorable thing — and marry Imeneo, no matter how she feels about Tirinto.

"So," says Rosmene, "you will force me to be untrue, so as not to be ungrateful?" "No," replies Argenio, "the noble virgin who bows to the will of parents and country, and in whom even unfaithfulness becomes a virtue, shall not be called untrue."

For the rest of the act, the characters engage in similar arguments for and against Rosmene's marriage to Imeneo or Tirinto, and she grows even more confused and tormented. Argenio declares that Rosmene will have to make up her own mind about who to marry. The chorus, however, says that Cupid will make the decision. In fact, they hint, he already has.

ACT 3:

All five characters sit down for dinner, around a big table, and the recitative that opens the act takes the form of a halting conversation, with long, awkward silences.

Rosmene says that, "Gratitude and love are two tyrants who will do me to death." Imeneo and Tirinto both claim they will die if they cannot have her. Clomiri is in love with Imeneo but knows that her love isn't returned, so she's just hoping to see him happy, no matter what the outcome.

Rosmene feels the choice she's facing is unfair, and hits upon an ingenious idea. She'll pretend to be crazy, to throw everybody off guard. The response to her feigned madness, she thinks, will make everything clear.

Rosmene moves woodenly around the room, eyes glazed, and saying outlandish things. At one point, after chugging her own glass of wine, she also grabs Imeneo's wine, and slugs that down for good measure. Grabbing a dinner roll, she winds up and flings it at Clomiri, hitting her squarely in the nose. She rips open her bodice and when the men are embarrassed, she climbs onto the table to look them both straight in the eye.

Finally, Rosmene makes her decision. Her delusion, she says, has enabled her to choose wisely. She picks duty over passion, and gratitude over fidelity — and thus, Imeneo over Tirinto. The chorus winds up the proceedings, singing that it's always best for reason to trump desire, but that's no solace to Tirinto and Clomiri, who are both left to cry over lost love.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.