Ars Minerva next opera recreation will be MESSALINA, an opera composed by Carlo Pallavicino in 1679 with a libretto written by Francesco Maria Piccioli.
The dates of performance are October 30th, 31st and November 1st, 2020. In the event of a longer worldwide health crisis, the performances will be postponed. We are also working on eventual livestream performances.
Note of Introduction:
Ars Minerva is a unique and young performing arts organization. On a shoestring budget we have presented 5 annual modern world premieres of lost operas that no one else presents, producing them for Bay Area audiences since 2015, and collaborated with San Francisco Bay local artists. Messalina cast calls for 8 vocalists and 6 instrumentalists, a creative team and a technical team. Our artists, except one, will be residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and are actively contributing to the local and vital arts scene. Please consider supporting us during this difficult time.
Who was MESSALINA?
Messalina (born before AD 20—died 48), third wife of the Roman Emperor Claudius, was notorius for licentious behaviour and instigating murderous court intrigues. She was married to Claudius when she was only 13 or 15 and he was 50. They had two children, Octavia (later Nero’s wife) and Britannicus.
Apparently Messalina allied herself with Claudius’s freedmen secretaries to dominate the emperor. It is said that Secretary Narcissus, managed to have her put to death by convincing Claudius that she and her lover, the Consul designate Gaius Silius, had gone through a public wedding ceremony and were plotting to seize power.
After the death of Messalina, Claudius claimed that he would remain celibate, but soon after this declaration he married Caligula’s sister Agrippina.
Carlo Pallavicino's MESSALINA plot:
A sex farce with teeth. Clever, lecherous Messalina turns the tables several times on the gullible Emperor Claudius, who is hardly innocent himself. Meanwhile two other couples suffer their own romantic vicissitudes. Furtive assignations, frustrated trysts, kidnappings, betrayals, sudden recognitions, a heroine and a hero both in drag, and a plot as convoluted as only 17th-century Venetian opera can put together, all lead to a reconciliation that will last only as long as Messalina can keep pulling the wool over Claudius’ eyes.
From musicologist Wendy Heller book: Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice:
"This chapter deals with Roman empress, Messalina, the adulterous wife of the emperor Claudius, who in Messalina brought to the luxurious stage of the Teatro San Grisostomo an unmatched reputation for decadence and sexual excess [...] Messalina provokes the most basic sort of fear—that a woman will deprive a man of his place not only in bed but also in his public role in society. Messalina relinquishes her role in the opera, avoiding the bloody death of her historical model. She serves to reinforce an essential lesson about the dangers of female sexuality."
The Composer: Carlo Pallavicino (1630-1688):
Italian composer Carlo Pallavicino wrote more than 20 operas, which premiered in the cities where he worked during his life: Venice, Italy and Dresden, Germany. He also wrote oratorios and sacred works. Pallavicino began his musical career as a church organist in 1665-66 in Padua, Italy. His first operas were staged in Venice, Italy in 1666. He moved on to the Dresden, Germany court in 1667, where he was a choirmaster for a few years. After that period, he returned to his organist position in Venice. He became the musical director of a Venice conservatory that provided musical training for orphaned children. Then, in 1685, he resumed his post in Dresden and then became director of chamber and theater music in 1687. Two of his operas were staged in Dresden, but he continued to compose mainly for Venice. Of Pallavicino’s operas, Vespasiano (staged in 1678 in Venice) was his most popular.