Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Feisty Females

Wed Sep 26 2012

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Ahead of the first concert in our Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers series this Sunday, celebrating some amazing women in music, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on some of the female opera characters we’ll be featuring over the next few months.

First on our list is Medea, one of the most notorious ladykillers of them all…

Who was she?

Medea was a princess and sorceress of Colchis who married Jason, leader of the Argonauts, after helping him win the Golden Fleece from her father.

What was she famous for?

Although Medea did all sorts of marvellous magical feats while helping Jason, it is his later betrayal of her and Medea’s subsequent anger and revenge that has inspired people from Euripides to Lars von Trier; Cherubini to Vienna Teng.

Thanks to the play by Euripides, Medea is probably most famous for murdering her children although there are other versions of the myth where this was unintentional or they were killed by the people of Corinth instead.

Medea’s strength in response to her mistreatment by Jason has also been used by those campaigning for women’s rights – her speech where she details the injustices women face and famously declares “I would rather stand three times with a shield in battle than give birth once.” was read aloud at suffragette meetings.

Was she a queen, heroine or ladykiller?

All three! As a princess she helped the hero Jason betraying and killing her family along the way. Later, when Jason left her she took revenge by killing his bride to be and future father in law. This wasn’t quite enough for her so she killed the two children she had with Jason – she does it with reluctance but her desire to hurt Jason is stronger than her love for her children. (Amanda Clarke has nothing on her.)

Who will be singing Medea and when?

Anna Caterina Antonacci will be singing Dei tuoi figli la madre from Cherubini’s Medea in our Three eras of divas concert on 30 September. In this aria, Medea begs Jason not to leave her, reminding him of how she helped him in his quest and how she gave up everything for him.

You’ll also get to hear Charpentier’s version of the Greek myth on 8 November, where Sarah Connolly will be singing two arias: Quel prix de mon amour and Noires filles du Styx, the first in which Medea bemoans her fate and in the second, she summons the spirits of darkness whilst preparing a poisoned robe for her rival.  Lovely.

You can see Anna Caterina Antonacci performing Dei tuoi figli la madre here or listen to the great Maria Callas sing it here.

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