Don't miss: Odyssey Opera's season openerInterview
Boston-based Odyssey Opera kicks off its 2018⁄19 season next month, with the American premiere of Charles Gounod’s La reine de Saba (The Queen of Sheba). It’s the first of two lesser-known works by the French composer (a fitting homage in his 200th year), followed in November by his Le médecin malgré lui.
Also taking some spotlight in Odyssey Opera’s new season is Helen of Troy, the “face that launch’d a thousand ships”, and the subject of Gluck’s Paride ed Elena, Strauss’, Die ägyptische Helena, and Offenbach’s La belle Hélène, all on the line-up in 2019.
We spoke with Gil Rose, the company’s Artistic Director and conductor, about the unexpected-yet-deserving subjects of Odyssey Opera’s upcoming season:
How did you decide on Gounod and Helen of Troy as the two focal points for Odyssey Opera’s upcoming season?
This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of French composer Charles Gounod, and it felt like the perfect time to explore his lesser-known works. We are thrilled to be opening our season with the U.S. premiere of Gounod’s La reine de Saba, composed in the years between Gounod’s acclaimed grand operas Faust and Roméo et Juliette. It is difficult not to be intrigued by Helen of Troy, lauded as the most beautiful woman in the world, who has inspired countless artists over many mediums. This spring we hope to learn more about this powerful character through the music of Gluck, Strauss, and Offenbach and their unique approaches to her mythical narrative.
What do you hope to show audiences with the presentation of two of Gounod’s lesser-known operas?
Gounod’s comic opera Le médecin malgré lui (presented this November at the Huntington Avenue Theater) was written only a year before the premiere of his most famous grand opera, Faust, and we expect our audiences to identify the musical similarities, while also appreciating the lighter nature of his writing. Similarly, La reine de Saba features the luscious and expansive arias we have come to expect from Gounod, while also providing the audience with new and intriguing musical moments, such as the nuanced choral duet between the handmaids of the Queen of Sheba and their counterparts in Soliman’s courts.
What qualities in Helen of Troy do you find are brought to focus in the operas by Gluck, Strauss, and Offenbach?
Though all three composers anchor their operas in the story of Helen and her lovers, each opera’s treatment of the story is varied and distinct. Gluck’s Paride ed Elena, featuring a cast entirely comprised of sopranos, tells of the romantic beginnings of the relationship between Paris and Helen, but leaves the audience anxious of what the future holds. Richard Strauss’ Die ägyptische Helena is an intimate and dramatic psychological interpretation of Helen’s return to her husband, Menelas; and Offenbach’s satirical opera pokes fun at the myth itself, with whimsical orchestral panache.
Are there any specific items on the season line-up that you look forward to in particular?
What is exciting about this season is that every show will provide its own unique experience - each a different adventure.