The happy and the tragic sides of love are presented this Thursday and Friday at CSUB's Dore Theatre, as the university's opera program presents two gems of the baroque opera repertoire.
The CSUB Opera Theater will present Giovanni Batista Perolesi's "La Serva Padrona" and Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" — two less-than-an-hour operas that, however short, are not only wildly entertaining, but have a revered place in opera history.
Madelynne Heiss, David Madrid and Jordan Espíritu play the three characters Serpina, Uberto and Vespone in "La Serva Padrona" ("The Maid As Mistress") an opera buffa that initially served as the comic relief between acts of a larger-scale, and now forgotten, serious opera. In this comedy, Serpina, the maid, rules the house and her master, Uberto, until he loses patience and tries to marry her off.
Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" is regarded as one of the great English Baroque operas, although it too was used as an intermission piece for longer dramatic works. Based on the ancient epic poem "The Aeneid" by Roman poet Virgil, "Dido and Aeneas" concerns the episode in that larger story where the hero, Aeneas, a survivor of Troy and destined to be the founder of Rome, is shipwrecked and taken in by the Dido, queen of Carthage, a city-state that all Romans would have known as their greatest enemy. The two fall in love and plan to marry, but are thwarted by a sorceress. (Purcell added the sorceress; this is opera, after all.)
Teresa Castro sings the role of Dido; Tori Carrillo is Belinda, her sister; Zachary Richardson is Aeneas; and Katherine Kiouses is the sorceress.
CSUB faculty Soo-Yeon Park is the music director; Peggy Sears is the stage director.
While a fluffy comedy, "La Serva Padrona" nevertheless was a landmark in opera history in that it turned the whole concept of opera on its head. Opera as an art form was supposed to bring forth "elevated" stories and characters in poetry, drama, music, dance and visual arts.
Acceptable subjects were the timeless myths and legends of the ancient world, or the great historical figures of classical antiquity.
For a maidservant to be the lead and win the day was a revolutionary approach and music historians point to this opera, which premiered in 1733, as the end of the Baroque opera and the beginning of the classical period, and the growing use of "ordinary" characters in extraordinary circumstances.
Premiering around 1689, "Dido and Aeneas" is one of the earliest known English operas and one of the finest of the baroque period, and was Purcell's contribution to the development of an English opera tradition. English opera would develop in fits and starts, hampered by changing tastes, political upheavals and the dominance of Italian operas until the 20th century.
Both evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Music professor Joel Haney will give a lecture at 6:45 p.m. in the Albertson Room. Tickets are $15 general admission; $10 for seniors and students; $5 for CSUB students with ID. Parking is free in lots B and C.