End of the Potsdam Sanssouci Music Festival: Amazons in the Palace of Theater – Culture

Potsdam – We don’t know what King Frederick II would have thought if a squad of militant Amazons had taken over his palace theater in the New Palace. By staging the opera “The Amazon Island”, the music festival on Saturday and Sunday evening made it possible for the most part to take the stage quietly. The work of Carlo Pallavicino, to the libretto by Francesco Maria Picciola, is part of the general trend of the Baroque era, when dozens of Amazonian operas were written. Pallavicino wrote his version, one of three on the subject, at the behest of a wealthy Venetian patrician who had it performed in 1679 as a gigantic outdoor spectacle with 100 Amazons, 100 “Mohrens” as they were then called, and 50 other Amazons on horseback.

In the Fredydery Rococo Theater in Potsdam, the Amazon Queen Pulcheria and her courtiers played, relaxed and so bored that their feet rested on the table while they sang. But soon riots break out in society in the form of the shipwrecked Numidio. The young man is adored and adored, but he remains faithful to his master, the Sultan of Ethiopia and tries to tame the Amazon in his own way.

Plays the confusion in traditional roles

When the betrayal comes out, they aren’t sensitive, they tie him up and want to kill him, but he avoids the danger. With cleverness and deception, the queen herself now wants to defeat the enemy. When that doesn’t work, all women want to take their own lives. Then the sultan comes to the rescue. According to the paradigm of the baroque opera, he is a gracious ruler: he frees the imprisoned Amazons, forgives them and wants to marry Queen Pulcheria, which she happily accepts. In this game of confusion, everything remains in the traditional roles.

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Of course, disagreement, jealousy, lamentation and sadness, anger and love give many reasons for emotional arias in which these very feelings are conjured up. Director Nicola Raab staged the events in a minimalistic way, in keeping with the text, although without the plot summary in the program booklet, some things would remain unclear. Relevant films such as Blooming Roses, Sea Foam and Flames (Marc de Pierrefeu) are displayed on a transparent curtain.

The French baroque specialist replaced a bit

The greatest credit goes to Christophe Rousset, who found this lovely piece and spiced it up for a music festival. The French baroque specialist set the score in bright light with an excellent sense of sound and expression. His ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, founded in 1991, delicately accentuates singing with two violins and two theorbs – a kind of lute – and a harpsichord, organ and baroque cello. Two natural trumpets and a cauldron with correspondingly war tones also appear for a short time.

Axelle Fanyo stands out from among a formidable group of singers such as Pulcheria with a dramatic, powerful soprano and extensive coloratures. Clara Guillon, the soprano, gives Auralba a fighting voice. Her lover Florinda, the soprano, is no worse. Anara Khassenova sings Jocaste, the Queen’s hapless daughter, with lyrical vigor. Shattered Numidio (Marco Angiolini) appears as a youthful, heroic tenor with an iron color. Olivier Cesarini (baritone) gives the divine ruler and conciliator a striking presence. Duet and trio are a nice change in a chain of numerous short and not too catchy arias.

The music festivals once again offered a full program

The open question is whether Frederick II would be pleased with this new production. But it would surely fill him with pride that even after 250 years operas were still played in his palace theater. The music festival, which ended on Sunday night, after two years of the pandemic, again offered a full program in proven style with numerous musical reenactments.

Bands from Europe to Cuba meticulously, with love and commitment presented the diverse world of early music, sometimes in small historical halls or in the form of open-air concerts on the terraces under the Palace Orangery. Sacrow Church was opened as a place with a water taxi, there was a show for the whole family on Peacock Island, and music could be heard on bikes and even on a rowing boat tour. Weather-wise, these were probably the hottest festivals ever. The organizers of the Potsdam Sanssouci Music Festival do not lack originality and the joy of discovering, thus continuing a living tradition.

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