Boston Early Music Festival - Charpentier Opera


La descente d'Orphée aux Enfers &
La Couronne de Fleurs

Two Operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Performed by Boston Early Music Festival

Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15, 2014, 8 pm

Pre-performance lobby lecture at 7 pm with Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs

McPherson Playhouse, 3 Centennial Square, Victoria

The performance is about 2 hours, including one intermission.

  • BEMF Cast and Creative Team
  • French Baroque Opera
  • Overview

    Scene from BEMF's original production in November, 2011. Photo: André Costantini

    Two jewels of the French Baroque, these operas are a brilliant fusion of music, drama, and dance, staged by one of the world's leading baroque ensembles. Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs, reigning authorities on early music, lead the internationally acclaimed singers, instrumentalists, and dancers of the Boston Early Music Festival.

    Orphée is a blend of two operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The operas, dating from 1685 and 1686, are presented as a play within a play – a musical contest framing the story of Orpheus and Euridice.

    La Couronne de Fleurs, based on a text by Molière, depicts the musical contest in tribute to Louis XIV, in which shepherds vie for a crown of flowers from the goddess Flora for the most beautiful and eloquent aria in praise of the Sun King.

    The short opera La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers is presented as a further entry in the poetic contest, telling the famous story of Orphée, who decends into the underworld to use his musical powers to rescue his beloved Euridice.

    These miniature masterpieces showcase one of the great composers of the French Baroque.

    Playful, elegant, and haunting, this performance is a perfect melding of consummate musicianship and exhilarating theatricality.

    A must-see for those who love the art of the Baroque and the glory of Opera!

    Behind-the-Scenes Preview video of Boston Early Music Festival's original 2011 production of La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers, with rehearsal scenes. Video by Kathy Wittman, Ball Square Films.


    Vancouver Observer Review by Janna Crown: There are good performances, great performances and every now and then, exceptional performances – the kind that open up your mind in ways you didnít know were possible

    Times Colonist Preview by Kevin Bazzana: Even in the biggest cities, French baroque opera remains a rare and exciting treat, so no one in our humble burg who loves either early music or opera should miss Orphée.

    Victoria News Preview of Orphée. James Young, Artistic Director of the Early Music Society of the Islands, explains why this is such a special event.

    Times Colonist Interview with Tyler Duncan, a graduate of Oak Bay High School and a member of the Boston Early Music Festival ensemble.

    Below, Boulevard Magazine's preview of Orphée

    Reviews of the Touring Production

    When Eurydice dies ... it was quite simply grief in motion and music, extraordinarily moving. It happened again, in a chilling way, when Orphée, told he cannot look back at his love, walks with her behind him very slowly ... That doomed walk of theirs is what I will remember ...
    Susan Miron, The Arts Fuse

    One fully felt the power of music ... the fragility of its status and the scariness of its possible disappearance.
    Charles Warren, The Berkshire Review

    The orchestra, led by BEMF musical directors Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs, was nearly flawless in their performance, both technically and artistically. The singers offered strong performances as soloists, as well as stellar ensemble performances. In keeping with Baroque theatrical tradition, the musical ensemble was also joined by dancers, all of whom executed their part in expert fashion. Both works featured outstanding performances by the leads.
    Joel Schwindt, Boston Musical Intelligencer

    Boston Early Music Festival

    Founded in 1980 – the same year Pacific Opera Victoria was incorporated – the Boston Early Music Festival has long been one of the leading groups in the performance of music from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras, acclaimed internationally for their artistry, technical polish, style, scrupulous research, and above all, excitement and drama. This is a perfect opportunity for Victorians to acquaint ourselves with the bewitching and unique world of French Baroque opera, made only more perfect by the performers. NOT TO BE MISSED!!

    Cast and Creative Team

    Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Opera Series

    1. Paul O'Dette & Stephen Stubbs, Musical Directors
    2. Gilbert Blin, Stage Director
    3. Anna Watkins, Costume Designer
    4. Melinda Sullivan, Choreographer

    Boston Early Music Festival Vocal Ensemble

    1. Aaron Sheehan, Orphée
    2. Mireille Asselin, Flore and Proserpine (Canadian cast member)
    3. Jesse Blumberg, Silvandre and Pluton
    4. Tyler Duncan, Apollon and Pan (Canadian cast member)
    5. Danielle Reutter-Harrah, Hyacinte
    6. Jason McStoots, Forestan and Ixion
    7. Carrie Henneman Shaw, Rosélie and Euridice
    8. Teresa Wakim, Amaranthe and Enone
    9. Brenna Wells, Daphné
    10. Zachary Wilder, Mirtil and Tantale

    Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble

    1. Cynthia Roberts, concertmaster
    2. Tekla Cunningham, violin
    3. Laura Jeppesen, viola da gamba
    4. Christel Thielmann, viola da gamba
    5. Beiliang Zhu, viola da gamba
    6. Geoffrey Burgess, oboe & recorder
    7. Kathryn Montoya, oboe & recorder
    8. Avi Stein, harpsichord
    9. Paul O'Dette, Baroque guitar and theorbo
    10. Stephen Stubbs, Baroque guitar and theorbo

    Boston Early Music Festival Dance Ensemble

    1. Ben Delony
    2. Caitlin Klinger
    3. Alexis Silver
    4. Andrew Trego
    5. Ryan Began, Actor

    Personnel Subject to Change

    Co-presented by
    Pacific Opera Victoria &

    Early Music Society of the Islands


    Synopsis of the operas

    Aaron Sheehan as Orphée

    Aaron Sheehan as Orphée

    Marc-Antoine Charpentier

    Portrait presumed to be of Marc-Antoine Charpentier

    Wikipedia Article about Louis XIV, whose praises are sung in La Couronne de Fleurs.

    Louis XIV in 1685

    Louis XIV, in 1685, the year La Couronne de Fleurs was composed.

    Louis XIV as Apollo, by Henri Gissey

    Louis XIV as Apollo, by Henri Gissey, in Le Ballet de la nuit, a ballet choreographed in 1653. It consisted of 45 dances, and King Louis appeared in five of them.