UNIQUE BAROQUE PERFORMANCES IN THE HEART OF PRAGUE
Ledebour Garden below Prague Castle
daily, regardless of the weather
from the 17th June to the 3rd October 2011
Opera comprising twelve scenes
The opera Endymio with Latin text by the Piarist P. David and s. Joanne Baptista – Jan Kopecký (1696 – 1758), who was also probably the author of the now lost music, was performed at the Kroměříž chateau in 1727. Kopecký translated into Latin a 30-year-old Italian libretto based on an antique myth about a handsome young man who falls into eternal sleep and thus achieves everlasting youth. Artists therefore see Endymio as a symbol of timeless beauty.
I have shortened the original libretto by Jan Kopecký significantly for this new performance. The original three-hour performance was condensed into a single-act opera lasting approximately one hour. Most of the beautiful verses by Jan Kopecký therefore remain hidden in the archive in Kroměříž. The new open ending is another major modification to the original libretto. The original version concludes in a happy reconciliation. First, Amor is forced to repair all the damage he has done. Amor strikes the freed Aurilla with his arrow and she falls in love with Thyrsus. Amor’s arrow also strikes Endymio and he falls in love with Diana. In return, she cancels the law prohibiting love and all characters delight in the sweet joy of their newly found freedom.
However, someone tore out the last scene from the Kroměříž copy, as I found out as I compared it against the Italian version. This inspired me to create an open ending that highlights the message of the entire story.
The exalted relationship between Endymio and Dorinda remained an unanswered question. This seemingly scandalous relationship between the two lovers was not meant literally when the libretto was written and cannot be taken literally even now. Dorinda needs to be seen in view of baroque allegories as a symbol of childhood or youth, which will disappear one day and be gone forever. Endymio does not want to experience love and risk being hurt by the relationship. Instead, he chooses eternal dream, in which he can stay with his little dog. I see this version as fulfilment of the original depiction of beauty that cannot be destroyed by time.
When composing the new music, I drew inspiration from the atmosphere and spirit of the musical life in Piarist schools during the 17th and 18th centuries. After years of searching and reconstruction of works by Piarist composers, I decided to use some of their musical ideas. The theme used for Diana’s law is taken from the mass by P. Adalbert Pelikán (1643-1700). The striking harmonic cadence with the original text “miserere nobis” is used each time the law “Perdit vitam quisqius Amoris partes agit” is declared and in the graceful variations of the love scene with Thyrsus and Aurilla. I used the two-pulse opening to the Crediti psalm by P. David Kopecký for Amor’s theme in the first scene.
However, immediately in the following scenes Amor’s theme gains its own character independent of the historical model and blends with the theme of Diana’s law in the last scene. Musical material used in this composition furthermore includes Salve Regina in G by P. Sebald Hausner (1725-1793).
His minimalist structure is respected to create a harmonic foundation for the second scene. Sylvan’s robber aria in the 4th scene and the hunting song in the 8th scene are also composed using the torso of this music. A minor version of the same music is used in the lamentation of Aurilla and Endymio in the 6th scene. When the music was transferred into minor, the first pulses appeared identical to Haydn’s didactic five-voice canon. This piece of music is therefore also used as a reference to the school environment. Endymio’s theme is loosely inspired by the previously mentioned Crediti psalm by P. David and Ave maris stella by P. Carol Floder (1738-1773). Besides Endymio’s theme in the “fatal” F minor, Endymio’s final aria includes a descending tetrachord ostinato as a typical baroque lamento base. I also used general baroque rhetoric figures in the creation of melodic lines.
I decided not to observe the historical production style according to which all roles, including female roles, would be sung by boys. However, Endymio is sung by male alto to refer to the androgynous world of castrates.
Music: Tomáš Hanzlík
Libretto: P. David and s. Joanne Baptista – Jan Kopecký (1696 – 1758)
Directed by: Tomáš Hanzlík
Artistic production: Tomáš Hanzlík & Ensemble Damian
Costumes and set: Vendula Johnová
Tickets for Prague Baroque Festival here