The Judgment of Paris (2016)
Thomas Augustine Arne
The Judgment of Paris
Masque to a libretto by William Congreve
The Deanery garden, Bampton: 22, 23 July 2016
Westonbirt Orangery: 29 August 2016
St John's Smith Square: 13 September 2016
|Mercury (Hermes), messenger of the gods||Robert Anthony Gardiner|
|Paris, a shepherd||Christopher Turner|
|Juno (Saturnia, wife of Jupiter)||Barbara Cole Walton|
|Pallas (Athena)||Catherine Backhouse|
|Venus (Cytherea)||Aoife O'Sullivan|
The Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera (Bampton, Westonbirt)
|Movement director||Triona Adams|
The messenger god Mercury is sent by Jupiter to give a task to the shepherd Paris. He is to present a golden apple to the most beautiful of three goddesses – Juno, Pallas Athena and Venus. The goddesses battle it out in a celestial beauty contest and each tries to tempt Paris. Juno, wife of Jupiter, offers earthly power and kingship whilst Pallas offers wisdom and glory in war. Venus charms with cooing words of love: her sensuous tactics pay off, and Paris awards her the coveted prize.
Synopsis in detail
The action begins immediately as the messenger god Mercury (Hermes) approaches the Phrygian shepherd Paris with a divine task from Jupiter: From high Olympus, and the realms above, behold I come, the messenger of Jove. Paris is commanded to award a golden apple to one of three beautiful goddesses. In an accompanied recitative descending scales in the strings depict the descent of the goddesses: O ravishing delight! What mortal can support the sight?...Save me rom excess of joy! – Paris faints at the awful task, and in a sprightly Air, Mercury reassures him that he will be quite safe: Fear not, mortal, none shall harm thee; with my sacred rod, I’ll charm thee! Woodwind plays for the first time in an upbeat Duet: Happy I of human race, with no god I’d change my place.
By now the three goddesses have arrived. First to confront Paris is Juno: [Recitative: Saturnia, wife of thund’ring Jove am I, belov’d of him, and Empress of the sky!]; she is swiftly followed by Pallas: This way mortal, bend thy eyes, Pallas claims the golden prize, a virgin goddess free from stain and queen of arts and arms I reign. But Venus already steals attention by singing a voluptuous Air, with ‘cello solo: Gentle swain! Hither turn thee, let not Venus sue in vain.
In a brilliantly comic and insistent Trio, all three vie for attention: Hither turn thee, gentle swain, hither turn to me again, turn to me, for I am she! It’s hardly surprising that Paris is unable to choose: Air, Distracted I turn, but I cannot decide, so equal a title sure never was tried.
Juno returns to the fray with an encouraging Air, which runs into a Chorus: Let ambition fire thy mind, thou wert born o’er men to reign. Pallas retorts in a dramatic Accompanied recitative [Awake, awake, thy spirits raise, waste not thy youthful days, piping, toying, nymphs decoying], which leads into a martial Air, scored with oboes, trumpets and timpani [The glorious voice of war calls aloud, for arms prepare!]. The chorus assumes that the contest is won [O how glorious ‘tis to see, the godlike hero crown’d with victory] but Venus does not intend to give up. She exploits all her sensuous charm in an Accompanied recitative [Stay, lovely youth, delay thy choice, take heed lest empty names enthral thee], leading to a mellifluous Air with Chorus [One only joy mankind can know, and Love alone can that bestow]. Venus persists further in a second flattering Air: Nature fram’d thee sure for loving, thus adorned with ev’ry grace. It is all too much for a mere mortal and Paris is overcome, handing over the coveted apple: I yield, I yield, O take the prize!....Forbear, forbear, O goddess of desire, to fan the raging fire.
Two choral numbers conclude the opera and call on nature to celebrate Venus’ triumph: Hither all ye graces, all ye loves, hither all ye hours resort, billing sparrows, cooing doves, come all the train of Venus’ court! and, finally, Sing, sing, sing and spread the joyful news around! The Queen of Love is Queen of Beauty crowned!
...a harmonious combination of nature and artifice.
Classical Source, July 2016
... a typically imaginative production... another triumph for Bampton Classical Opera
Seen and Heard International, July 2016
...well worth seeing
Bachtrack, July 2016
Magnificent bill of divine comedy
Oxford Times, August 2016
A treat of a performance... pure delight throughout
Opera Now, September 2016
... refreshing and rewarding
Opera, September 2016
... an ear for young voices
The Times, 14 September 2016
Rare operas given the knockabout comedy treatment
Evening Standard, 14 September 2016
...a healthy dose of insouciance
Opera Today, 15 September 2016
...unquestionably a company triumph
Boulezian, 18 September 2016
MusicOMH.com, 15 September 2016
…a delightful evening – fun, inventive, with great ensemble singing and playing
Planet Hugill, 15 September 2016
The Judgment of Paris