The Opera 'Armide' Comes to Columbus
Opera Columbus and Ballet Met collaborate on a new production of Lully's baroque spectacle, Armide at the Southern theater September 17, 18 and 20. The choreography is by Ballet Met's own Edwaard Liang. The title role is sung by Opera Columbus executive director and hot diva in residence, Peggy Kriha Dye.
Only in a very esoteric college course might you be required to read Torquato Tasso's epic on the Crusades, La Gerusalemme Liberata. The "Liberation of Jerusalem" is a dicey concept today, but three hundred years ago this was the source for plays by Moliere and Racine, and operas by Hasse, Handel, Gluck, Rossini, Massenet and Dvorak.
The character, Armide is a sorceress who doesn't hesitate to discard her lovers and turn them into whatever she thinks they should be. This is a the case of a prince getting kissed and THEN being turned into a frog.
Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) got there first, with his opera ballet Armide, presented to King Louis XIV at Versailles in 1687. Though Handel and Rossini may have given Armide showier music, no one beats Lully for grace and pure spectacle. Like all French opera, Armide is based on the dance . King Louis XIV fancied himself quite the prime danseur, and criticizing the King would be like telling Mohammed Ali he throws punches like a girl.
The spectacle in all French operas of this period served two purposes. The first was entertainment. The second was power. King Louis XIV designed a protocol with himself at the center, from which all favors ran. He kept his friends close and his enemies in his back pocket. Gorgeous as it was, there wasn't a lot to do at Versailles. Even a good natured tumble could be arduous, what with all the clothes they had to wear. Learning and rehearsing new opera and the fashionable dances kept folks sweaty and busy. The King would literally stand at the center, watching. Thus he provided entertainment and a powerful base from which to control the lives of the courtiers.
Armide is filled with beautiful music and a lot of sexy dance. Louis XIV was probably the first to say "It's
better to look good than to feel good."Soprano Peggy Kriha Dye has reinvented opera for Columbus. Her collaboration with Edwaard Liang and the Columbus Symphony in Twisted set the town on its ear last fall. Armide will leave it audiences, too, hot and sweaty, with anything possible at fall of curtain. Go. Take someone you love. Go solo and fall in love. Or both. Just be careful, boys, not to find yourselves turned into a squirrel.