An Opera in Threo Acts
Revised by VINCENT D'INDY
The Story of the Opera.
We count Monteverdi (1507-1643) as one of the greatest forces in Opera. He was a keen. fine thinker, and bold experimenter, in the days when opera was just coming to light - about the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was both a summer-up of other people's styles and a maker of new. In dramatic effect (especially the power to depict scenes of deep feeling) and in his striking ideas about the use of the Orchestra, Monteverdi stands out above his contemporaries.
In 1613 he was appointed master of the music at St. Mark's, Venice, and there, were he had voices and instruments at command, he settled, to pursue in comfort his experiments in the composition of Opera. Some of the works of this most fruitful period are lost. The Oxford University Opera Club has recently revived Orpheus and The Coronation of PoppÃ¦a.
The Return of Ulysses to his Native Land came out in 1642. Its libretto was by Badoaro.
The work in the new edition made by dâ€™Indy, is cast in three Acts, split up into.a number of short scenes.
Scene I.â€”In Ulysses's Palace. Penelope (Soprano) laments the loss of her husband Ulysses, who has for years been absent. The nurse, Kurykleia (Mezzo-Soprano) tries to console her. Now there is interpolated a charming love scene between Melantho (Soprano), Penelope's attendant, and her swain Eurymachos (Baritone).
Scene 2.-On the coast of Ithalca. A number of PhÃ¦acians leave Ulysses (Baritone), who has been shipwrecked, upon the shore. To him comes Minerva (Soprano) in the guise of a shepherd. He does not know where he is, but soon recognizes the goddess who promises him that, disguised as an old man, he shall see what trouble has come to his wife (who is wooed by a number of presumptuous suitors of whose presence she cannot rid herself).
Scene 1. â€” In EumÅ“us's grove. EumÃ¦us (Tenor), a swineherd, a faithful old retainer of Ulysses. He is discovered alone, reflecting on his happy, free life in the open air. Iros (Tenor) comes in. He is the gluttonous 'sycophant' who plays jester for the amusement of Penelope's suitors.
Now enters Ulysses, disguised. EumÅ“us welcomes him for what he seems to be - a poor old man. Ulysses delights the swineherd by telling him that his master still lives, and will come to his own again.
Scene 2. â€” On Telemachos's Ship. Telemachos (Tenor) is Ulysses's son. Minerva is guiding his ship homeward.
Scene 3. â€” In EumÅ“us's Grove. Telemachos arrives in Ithaka, and is welcomed by EumÅ“us, who tells him of the old man's prophecy - that Ulysses shall come to the rescue of Penelope. When the swineherd has gone, Ulysses reveals himself to Telemachos. and sends his son to the palace to tell his mother that soon the King of Ithaka will be at hand.
Scene 4. - In the Palace of Ulysses. To Penelope who is being pestered by some of her suitors â€” Antinoos (Bass), Amphinome (Baritone), Pisander (Tenor), and others. EumÅ“us brings the tidings of the coining of Telemachos and the news of Ulysses. The suitors take counsel on this threat of danger. They determine to try if riches will tempt Penelope to yield.
Scene 1. â€” Under the Portico of Ulysses's Palace. Antinoos rebukes the swineherd for bringing the old beggar man to the palace. Iros, the jack-in-office pipes up too and bids him be gone. Ulysses answers him roundly. Penelope enters, in time to see a wrestling bout between the two, in which Iros is beaten.
Now Pisander, Amphinome, and Antinoos tempt Penelope with jewels. She, temporizing, promises to wed whichever shall win a shooting match, using Ulysses's bow (which, she hopes, none of them will be able to bend). They, with many fine words, attempt to handle it, but fail. The disguised Ulysses asks to be allowed to try. He does so, and draws the bow, making good use of it by transfixing the suitors with successive arrows.
Scene 2. â€” In Ulysses's Palace. Gluttonous Iros laments the death of the suitors, because he can never more feast as he used to. He decides to kill himself rather than forego his feasting.
Scene 3. â€” In the Palace. Penelope still doubts Ulysses's coming, but her husband succeeds in convincing her that it is indeed he who stands before her and the Opera ends with the moving joy of their reunion.