Opera/masque from 1681
In Auer Hall the previous evening, the IU Baroque Orchestra and vocal soloists, astutely guided by Nigel North, performed “Venus and Adonis,” a work labeled by its composer, John Blow, “A Masque for the Entertainment of the King.”
The 50-minute piece, first given at the court of Charles II in Oxford, retells the legend of the immortal Venus and the mortal Adonis, their love affair, his departure for a hunt and fatal wounding by a wild boar, his death in her arms.
Soprano Kathryn Summersett and baritone Kevin de Benedictis handled the embraces and Blow’s expressive music with persuasive determination. Soprano Claire Daniels fit her portrayal of Cupid genially into the mix. A four-member chorus and the Baroque Orchestra complemented and completed the soloists. With the knowing North as their trainer and conductor, Blow’s score was capably served. One might, however, have wished for additional stage direction to make the action more compelling.
On listening to this less familiar opera/masque, a product of 1681, one recalled what came just eight years later, Purcell’s tragedy of two other mythical lovers, “Dido and Aeneas.” Ah, what a difference: Purcell’s work of genius has transcended time; Blow’s has become a curiosity, worth more as a historic reference to a monarch’s court life and musical taste than as a work of stature. Still, this reviewer was appreciative of exposure to a rarity.
Copyright: HeraldTimesOnline.com 2013