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A masterpiece from the French Baroque is featured on this week’s WCPE Opera House: Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Médée (Medea). Set to a French libretto by Thomas Corneille, it was premiered at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris on December 4, 1693.
Following a Prologue in celebration of the glory of Louis XIV, Jason (tenor Gilles Ragon) and Medea (soprano Jill Feldman), pursued by the people of Thessaly because of Medea's crimes, have sought refuge in Corinth. Medea is worried that Jason is growing distant from her. Jason claims he needs to win the good graces of the princess Creusa (soprano Agnès Mellon) so her doting father, King Creon (bass Jacques Bona), will protect them. He suggests that Medea should give Creusa a beautiful robe as a present.
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After Medea leaves, Jason confides that he is really in love with Creusa but fears Medea's reaction. Creusa is due to be married to Orontes (baritone Philippe Cantor), prince of Argos, who now arrives in Corinth with his army. However, King Creon tells Jason that he would prefer him as a son-in-law. Jason leads the combined Corinthian and Argive army to victory against the Thessalians.
Creon tells Medea he will not hand her over to her enemies but she must leave Corinth. Jason and their children will stay. Medea protests that she committed those crimes only out of love for Jason, but Creon replies that the Corinthian people want her to leave. Medea hands over her children to Creusa, who confesses her love to Jason.
Orontes promises Medea refuge in Argos if she can arrange a marriage between him and Creusa. She tells him that the only reason she is being banished is so Jason can be free to marry Creusa. They must combine forces to prevent this happening. Jason pleads with Medea that he is acting in the best interests of their children. Left alone, Medea resorts to witchcraft and summons demons from the underworld, who bring her a poisoned robe for Creusa.
Jason admires the beauty of Creusa's new robe. Orontes finally realizes that what Medea had said is true: Creusa will marry Jason, not him. Medea vows that Creusa will never be Jason's bride. Creon arrives and is angered that Medea has not yet left Corinth. He orders his guards to seize her but she conjures up spirits of beautiful women who seduce the guards away. Then she uses her magical powers to drive the king insane.
Medea rejoices at her success and plans to take her vengeance to an extreme by murdering her own children. Creusa begs her to spare Corinth, even pledging to renounce her wedding to Jason if she does so. News arrives of Creon's madness and death. Medea touches Creusa's poisoned robe with her wand and it bursts into flame. Creusa dies in Jason's arms. Jason swears revenge on Medea, who now appears in a flying chariot pulled by dragons to announce she has stabbed their children. She leaves as the palace of Corinth bursts into flames.
William Christie conducts Les Arts Florissants in this 1984 recording.
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sings the beautiful plaint, “Quel prix de mon amour”:
Please join us this Saturday afternoon, March 25th, at 1:00 p.m., for the live Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s first operatic masterpiece, Idomeneo, with Matthew Polenzani as the king torn by a rash vow, Alice Coote in the trouser role of his noble son Idamante; Nadine Sierra as Ilia; and Elza van den Heever as the volatile Elettra, who loves Idamante to the bounds of madness. James Levine conducts.
Next Thursday, March 30th, please join me and Great Sacred Music host Rob Kennedy for a special Spring Membership Drive edition of the WCPE Opera House. In addition to playing arias, ensembles and choruses from opera recordings in our extensive collection, we’ll also feature highlights from our thank-you gifts: the Anna Netrebko: Verismo CD and Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers) DVD.
The WCPE Opera House is heard every Thursday evening at 7 o’clock in the Eastern time zone on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina, and we’re streamed Live online at on our Internet page or you can listen on WCPE's Android or iPhone apps.
— W. Robert Chapman, Host of the WCPE Opera House
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WCPE-FM Education Fund Announces New Grant Application Period for 2017-2018 Season
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When your contribution is at least $50.00, you may, in lieu of choosing a gift, designate that 10% of your donation go toward the WCPE Education Fund. Please check the appropriate box in the Secure Pledge Form!
The Metropolitan Opera Announces the 2016-17 Season
The Metropolitan Opera’s 2016-17 Season—Its 50th Anniversary at Lincoln Center — Will Feature 225 Performances of 26 Operas, With Six New Productions, Including a Met Premiere!
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