Arts & Events

ARS MINERVA Is Coming to Berkeley

Previewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday October 26, 2018 - 04:38:00 PM

Ars Minerva, the San Francisco-based opera company founded by mezzo-soprano Celine Ricci, is bringing to Berkeley its latest production, Ifigenia in Aulide (1738) by Giovanni Porta. Specializing in reviving 17th & early-18th century operas that were popular in their time but have long been forgotten, Are Minerva has won multiple plaudits for its productions of operas such as La Circe (1665) by Pietro Andre Ziani, The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles (1679) by Carlo Pallavicino, and La Cleopatra (1662) by Daniele da Castrovillari. Their latest production, Ifigenia in Aulide by Giovanni Porta will be presented at San Francisco’s ODC Theater at 7:30 on November 30 and December 1, and it will also be given in an abridged concert version at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church at 8:00 on November 9. 

Opera-goers may be familiar with Gluck’s Iphigenia in Aulide, but no contemporary opera-goer, I am sure, has seen Giovanni Porta’s version of this story from the ancient Greeks. The Iphigenia myth was treated in ancient Greece by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, among others. For Giovanni Porta’s opera, librettist Apostolo Zeno adapted the story from the version by 17th century French tragedian Jean Racine, and Porta’s music is in the Venetian style of the 1720s-30s that features fast passages, arpeggios, wide melodic intervals, and long melismas. Between 1716 and 1738 Porta wrote 30 operas, occasionally in collaboration with other composers such as Gasparini and Tomasso Albinoni. Alas, however, only four of Porta’s 30 operas remain extant in complete (or nearly complete) scores. Among Porta’s lost operas is Numitore, which Georg Freidrich Handel produced in 1720 at London’s Royal Academy of Music.  

The plot of Porta’s Ifigenia in Aulide retells the story of the Greek army, ready to sail to Troy under King Agamemnon, but becalmed by contrary winds. Agamemnon ccnsulted the Oracle and was told that a sacrifice to the goddess Artemis (in Italian, Diana) must be made before the Greeks could set sail. The death demanded was that of Agamemnon’s own daughter, Iphigenia. 

The Art Minerva cast for Ifigenia in Aulide includes Aura Veruni as Ifigenia, Nikola Printz as Agamemnon, Shawnette Sulker as Clytemnestra, Celine Ricci as Achilles, Cara Gabrielson as Elisena, and Kevin Gino as Ulysses. Stage Director is Celine Ricci, and Derek Tam will conduct from the harpsichord.