Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria

Claudio Monteverdi

A tale of unwavering love

7 16 18 24 June 2017
2 July 2017
The Academy of Ancient Music Book now
Overview

IL RITORNO D’ULISSE IN PATRIA

Composer – Claudio Monteverdi
Librettist – Giacomo Badoaro
SUNG IN ITALIAN
Venice, 1640

To mark the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi’s birth, the Grange Festival’s artistic director Michael Chance, stage director Tim Supple, and designer Sumant Jayakrishnan, join forces to create a visually arresting production of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria.

The thrilling and deeply moving last episodes of Homer’s Odyssey form the story of Claudio Monteverdi’s last and most powerful opera. The weary but always wily Ulysses (Odysseus) is washed up on a rocky shore. It turns out to be his home island Ithaca. With the help of his guardian goddess, Minerva, his old shepherd, and his son, he plots and enacts the massacre of the hordes of greedy suitors besieging his wife Penelope and her court. Her constancy, determination and skill have helped fight them off for nearly twenty years. The final reconciliation of husband and wife are presented with heart-wringing majesty. This is musical drama writ immediate and visceral. An exotic sound world, memorable tunes, fast paced story-telling and dramatic intensity all worthy of Shakespeare make this opera truly great.

Creative Team
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Michael Chance

Musical Director

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Tim Supple

Director

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Sumant Jayakrishnan

Designer

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Debbie Fionn Barr

Movement Director

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Jackie Shemesh

Lighting Designer

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Ziggy Jacobs-Wyburn

Video Designer

Michael Chance is Artistic Director of The Grange Festival. He has established a worldwide reputation as one of the foremost exponents of the male alto voice in all areas of the classical repertoire.  His oratorio and recital performances have included Carnegie Hall, Concertgebouw, Musikverein, and Wigmore Hall with programmes ranging from Elizabethan lute songs to world premieres commissioned including works by Richard Rodney Bennett, Alexander Goehr, Tan Dun, Anthony Powers, John Tavener, and Elvis Costello .

In opera he has worked at  La Scala Milan, Sydney Opera House, New York, Lisbon, Oviedo, Leipzig, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam , ROH, Glyndebourne, and ENO.  His appearances include the title roles of Orfeo (Gluck),  Rinaldo , Ascanio in Albai, and Solomon,  Ottone/ Poppea, Oberon/Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tolomeo/Giulio Cesare.  He premiered  Birtwistle The Second  Mrs Kong (Orpheus) and Weir A night at the Chinese Opera  ( Military Governor).

He has an extensive discography, including many Bach and Monteverdi recordings with John Eliot Gardiner and Handel’s Semele  for Deutsche Grammophon for which he received a Grammy Award. He was awarded the CBE in 2009.

Tim Supple has created theatre throughout the UK and in Europe, North and South America, Australia, India, North Africa and the near and far East. He has worked regularly with the National Theatre and the RSC and during the 1990s he was Artistic Director of the Young Vic Theatre in London. He has been described as “the leading storyteller in British Theatre” (Financial Times). In 2005 he founded Dash Arts with Josephine Burton to create new performance in collaboration with artists from abroad. His multi-lingual A Midsummer Night’s Dream, created in India for Dash Arts in 2006, was a world-wide success and acclaimed as ‘the most life-enhancing production of Shakespeare’s play since Peter Brook’s” (Guardian).

Sumant Jayakrishnan is a scenographer, designer, installation artist and theater practitioner based in New Delhi. Trained in visual communication at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he also studied theatre design and scenic techniques at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London on a Charles Wallace Award. He received a Fulbright Arts Fellowship as a visiting scholar to New York University in 2002. His work spans the entire spectrum of design today, from contemporary theater and dance to exhibition, fashion, art direction for film and international events.

Irish Choreographer Debbie Fionn Barr has been making work with diverse communities for over three decades. Collaborators have included the Queen’s Gurkha Regiment, Mathmos lighting company, Anglo-Brazilian theatre performers, professional classical Indian and contemporary dancers. Debbie trained at Trinity Laban and has toured independent and commissioned productions as Associate Artist at The Lighthouse, Poole and with her company The Fionnbarr Factory. Debbie’s investigation into the use of body in narrative performance has been impacted by a twenty-year collaborative relationship with Bharata Natyam company SANKALPAM. Debbie has held senior academic posts at three UK Universities and is currently completing her doctoral studies at Coventry University.

Jackie graduated from the Jerusalem School of Visual Theatre. He is now based in London and works internationally designing lighting for dance, theatre and opera. Jackie is interested in a collaborative approach to the creation of work and his inventive use of light and lighting creates striking environments to complement contemporary performance across the small, middle and large scales. Works in opera include Sante LSO at St. Lukes London 2006. The Medium, Telephone Jerusalem Academy for Music. La Cerentola ABAO Bilbao, Verther, Madam Butterfly, The Tel Aviv opera – Lightning Revival. Don Giovanni – The opera workshop, Tel Aviv.

Ziggy trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Based in Bristol, she specializes in lighting & video design and the creation of new bespoke technology for performance. Ziggy is passionate about bringing open-source content creation to the arts through collaborative design techniques, and her technology creation has been featured in film, television, and live performance worldwide. Design credits include: Giovanni (Beijing Music Festival, Silent Opera), The Last Dance (Chris Keller Films), Heartfelt (Sacconi Quartet), A Mendip Wintereisse (Cedars Hall, Wells) Poppea (Aldeburgh Music) and Cathy Come Home (The Barbican Hall, Cardboard Citizens). http://ziggyjacobs.com/

Cast
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Paul Nilon

Ulisse

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Anna Bonitatibus

Penelope

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Lorena Paz Nieto

Amore

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Emma Stannard

Minerva

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Thomas Elwin

Telemaco (Telemachus)

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Ronald Samm

Iro (Irus)

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Robin Blaze

Pisandro (Peisandros) / L'umana fragilità (Human frailty) / Coro di Feaci

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Gwilym Bowen

Eurimaco (Eurymachus) / Giove (Jupiter)

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Fiona Kimm

Ericlea (Eurycleia)

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Harry Nicoll

Anfinomo (Amphinomus) / Coro di Feaci

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Paul Whelan

Nettuno (Neptune) / Tempo (Time) / Antinoo (Antinous)

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Donna Bateman

Fortuna (Fortune) / Melanto

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Nigel Robson

Eumete

Paul Nilon is established as one of Europe’s outstanding lyric tenors in a wide repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to Britten. He has worked with many leading orchestras and ensembles in the UK and Europe.  In opera he has worked for most of the major British opera companies. Companies abroad include the Bayerische Staatsoper, Netherlands Opera, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, San Francisco Opera and Dallas Opera.

Recent and future operatic engagements include the title role in a new production of Idomeneo for ENO, Chartkov in Weinberg’s The Portrait, Albert Gregor in The Makropulos Case and the title role of  La clemenza di Tito (Opera North), Sultan in Vivaldi’s La verità in cimento, Paolo Maometto IIand Aschenbach’s Death in Venice (Garsington Opera), the title role of Idomeneo (Gothenburg Opera), Grimoaldo Rodelinda (Bolshoi Theatre Moscow), Paolo Maometto II and Ermione (Volkstheater Rostov), the world premiere of Life is a Dream by Jonathan Dove and Scribe Khovanschina (Birmingham Opera Company).

Concert engagements include Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with the BBC Philharmonic, Beethoven Symphony no. 9 with Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Elgar’s The Kingdom in Worcester Cathedral, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Rachmaninov’s The Bells and The Dream of Gerontius at Three Choirs Festival, the world premiere of Blackford’s Not in our Time  with Bournemouth Symphony Chorus in Bremen, Mozart Requiem with the ORTVE in Madrid, and Stanford’s Stabat Mater with Huddersfield Choral Society.

Anna Bonitatibus grew up in the Basilicata region of Italy and began studying music at the age of nine. She received diplomas with honours for both piano and voice and won several international competitions, after which she decided to pursue the study of vocal technique, focussing on the bel canto repertory. She now performs in the world’s leading opera houses and concert halls and has collaborated with such conductors as Ivor Bolton, William Christie, Myung-Whun Chung, Alan Curtis, Ottavio Dantone, René Jacobs, Nicola Luisotti, Lorin Maazel, Charles Mackerras, Marc Minkowski, Riccardo Muti, Antonio Pappano, Jeffrey Tate, Marcello Viotti and Franz Welser-Möst. She has sung roles in more than fifty operas in a wide repertory that includes baroque and bel canto operas, works by Mozart, Rossini and Donizetti and in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, Massenet’s Werther and Ravel’s L’Enfant et les sortilèges. She has worked with directors such as David Alden, Pierre Audi, Sven-Eric Bechtolf, Peter Brook, Robert Carsen, Jürgen Flimm, Dario Fo, Kasper Holten, Jonathan Miller, Laurent Pelly, Pier Luigi Pizzi, Luca Ronconi, Emilio Sagi, Jérôme Savary, Robert DeSimone and Bartlett Sher.

Spanish soprano Lorena Paz Nieto is with Royal Academy Opera, under the tuition of Philip Doghan and Audrey Hyland. She holds an MA-PrepOpera at RAM, achieving Distinction and a DipRAM for an outstanding final recital. She graduated with 1st Class BMusHons from GSMD.

Operatic roles include Morgana in Handel’s Alcina, Diana in Offenbach’s Orphee aux enfers at the Hackney Empire, Drusilla in Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazzione di Poppea at Shoreditch town hall, Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro at Hackney Empire, Pannotchka in Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night at Ambika P3, and Cis in Albert Herring at GSMD.

Concert performances include recitals at St St John’s Smith Square and the Oxford Lieder Festival; BBC Radio3 broadcast- Total Immersion: Villa-Lobos at Milton Court, and Tyondai Braxton’s Central Market with BBCSO at Barbican’s Music Hall, and with the London Sinfonietta at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Lorena has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras and choral societies across the UK. She has given recitals in Belgium, Spain, England, Wales, Scotland, Italy, and France.

Recent oratorio repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Tippett’s A Child of Our Time and Orff’s Carmina burana.

She recently won the Oxford Lieder Young Artist Award (2016), and the Ludmilla Andrew Russian Song Prize. Lorena is a Carr-Gregory Scholar, and is grateful for the support of the Matthew & Sally Ferrey Scholarship, the Leverhulme Trust Postgraduate Scholarship, the Help Musicians UK Tutton Award and the Josephine Baker Trust.

Mezzo-soprano, Emma Stannard trained at the RNCM gaining a first class BMus (Hons) and a MMus with Distinction under the tutelage of Peter Alexander Wilson. She is now training on the Royal Academy of Music’s Opera Course (RAO), studying with Yvonne Howard and Joseph Middleton. Most recently she has performed the roles of Hanna, Rimsky-Korsakov’s May Night and Poppea, Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. In the 2016/17 academic year Emma will take the roles of Ruggiero, Handel’s Alcina, and Junon, Offenbach’s Orfee aux enfers.

Born in London, Tenor Thomas Elwin studied at the Royal Academy of Music. An alumnus of the Solti Accademia Bel Canto and the Verbier Academy, Thomas was a member of the opera studio at Oper Stuttgart for the 2014/15 season where roles included Officer Ariadne auf Naxos, Kuska Khovanshchina, Adballo Nabucco, Borsa Rigoletto.

Recent engagements include Ferrando Cosi Fan Tutte, Nathanael Contes D’Hoffman, Kuska Khovanshchina and Borsa Rigoletto all for Staatstheater Stuttgart,  Belmonte Die Entufuhrung aus dem Serail in a new production by Sigrid Herzog at the Vorarlberg Landestheater and Ferrando for Diva Opera.  Highlights in 2016/17 include: Ferrando Cosi Fan Tutte for Oper Stuttgart, cover and sing Don Ottavio Don Giovanni for English National Opera, Messiah with the Odense Symphony Orchestra in Odense, Denmark,  Alfredo in The Mountebanks by Cellier in a World Premier recording with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Telemaco / Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria for The Grange Festival.

On the concert platform Thomas has performed extensively as a soloist across Europe. Previous seasons performances include Bach Passions (both arias and as Evangelist) in St. Alban’s Abbey, at the LutherKirche in Bad Canstatt and in Zaragoza, Messiah with the International Bach Akademie, Stuttgart, in Manchester Cathedral and at the Leith Hill Festival, Britten Serenade at Kings Place, London, and in the Duke’s Hall with Royal Academy Symphony Orchestra and performances of Messa di Gloria (Puccini), Jephtha (Handel), Nocturne (Britten), Elijah (Mendelssohn) and Creation (Haydn).

Thomas has an extensive recital repertoire and has appeared at the Oxford Lieder Festival, Song in the City, with the Royal Academy Song circle and a solo recital as part of the Masters series at the Gresham Centre.  Future plans include a debut recital recording of Bellini and Donizetti songs and a second recording featuring songs by Hahn, Duparc and Liszt.

Ronald Samm was born in Port of Spain, the younger son of two Head-teachers. Early musical training began at St Mary’s College where he was a regular prizewinner in the island-wide biennial Music Festival. He studied voice and piano with Noelle Barker and Ian Kennedy at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and won a scholarship from the Peter Moores/Lord Pitt Foundation to pursue post-graduate study with Nicholas Powell at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Operatic roles have included First Armed Man and Second Priest Die Zauberflöte (Opera North); an evening of contemporary opera at the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden; Canio I Pagliacci (Welsh National Opera and English Pocket Opera) and Otello for Children’s Music Workshop, a role he has also covered for Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Recent engagements include Bardolph Falstaff (English Touring Opera) and Spoletta Tosca, Canio I Pagliacci and Laca Jenufa, all for English Touring Opera; the Dancing Master in Birmingham Opera Company’s production of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos (Prologue only); Siegmund Die Walküre in Lisbon; Florestan Fidelio (Festival Burgarena in Austria) and Sportin’ Life Porgy and Bess (Opera de Lyon) and in concert for the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome and at the Teatro Lirico in Cagliari, Sardinia.

Robin Blaze is now established in the front rank of interpreters of Purcell, Bach and Handel, and his career has taken him to concert halls and festivals in Europe, North and South America, Japan and Australia.  His opera engagements have included Athamas Semele at Covent Garden; Didymus Theodora (Glyndebourne Festival Opera); Arsamenes Xerxes, Oberon A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamor Jephtha (English National Opera); and Bertarido Rodelinda (Göttingen Handel Festival). He works with many distinguished conductors in the early music field: Harry Christophers, Emmanuelle Haïm, Philippe Herreweghe, Christopher Hogwood, Ton Koopman, Paul Goodwin, Gustav Leonhardt, Robert King, Nicholas Kraemer, Sir Charles Mackerras, Trevor Pinnock and Sir John Eliot Gardiner. His work with Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan has been particularly praised by critics: the two latest CD releases, Bach’s B Minor Mass and the three solo countertenor cantatas, have been described as “heart-stopping” in Gramophone.

Born in Hereford, Gwilym Bowen was a choral scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in Music, subsequently studying at the Royal Academy of Music. On the operatic stage, his diverse repertoire has included Pelléas Pelléas et Mélisande, multiple roles L’incoronazione di Poppea and Il ritorno di Ulisse in Patria with the Academy of Ancient Music at the Barbican Hall, in Venice and in Bucharest, Tom Rakewell The Rake’s Progress, Davey in Jonathan Dove’s Siren Song, Dwight/God Jerry Springer: the Opera, Sailor Dido and Aeneas, Intelletto in Emilio de’Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione di anima e di corpo and Lysander A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Aldeburgh.

Fiona Kimm has performed throughout the UK, Europe and North America in an extensive operatic, oratorio and concert repertoire. Her repertoire has included Mrs Herring Albert Herring, Mrs Sedley Peter Grimes, Rosa Mamai L’Arlesiana, Orfeo Orfeo ed Euridice, Jezibaba Rusalka, Julie Showboat, Kabanicha Katya Kabanova, Ericlea Il ritorno d’Ulisse, Nurse Boris Godunov, Sextus La clemenza di Tito, Marcellina Le nozze di Figaro, Dido Dido and Aeneas, Clairon Capriccio, Baba the Turk The Rake’s Progress, Madame Larina Eugene Onegin, Wife – Sphinx – Doreen Greek, Mlle Arvidson Un ballo in maschera, Mistress Quickly Falstaff, Azucena Il trovatore, The Old Crone – Mrs Chin A Night at the Chinese Opera and Fricka Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Scottish tenor Harry Nicoll has become one of the UK’s leading character tenors, appearing with all the major UK companies, as well as widely across Europe.

Harry has sung for English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne on Tour, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, Frankfurt Opera, Oper Köln, the Vlaamse Opera, Opéra de Nantes, Teatro La Fenice, New Israeli Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and Théâtre du Châtelet. He appears regularly at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Recent engagements include Missail Boris Godunov for the Royal Opera House and at the BBC Proms, Don Basilio/Don Curzio for Le nozze di Figaro for Longborugh Festival Opera; Pirelli Sweeney Todd for the Nederlandse Reisopera; Rev. Horace Adams Peter Grimes in his debut with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano and Idiot Wozzeck for the Philharmonia Orchestra on tour in Europe and the USA under Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Next season Harry returns to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Erster Priester in David McVicar’s classic production of Die Zauberflöte.

In recent seasons, bass-baritone Paul Whelan added the role of Sarastro Die Zauberflöte to his repertoire which he sang at Hawaii Opera Theatre; in Geneva he joined the Grand Theatre for their new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Quince, and he appeared at Gothenburg Opera for the role of Claudio Hamlet in a new production by Stephen Langridge for which he won sterling reviews.

Recent highlights include Daland Der fliegende Holländer at Hawaii Opera Theatre and New Zealand Opera, Giorgio I Puritani at Boston Lyric Opera and Victorian Opera, and his role debuts as Nick Shadow The Rake’s Progress for Opera New Zealand, Banco Macbeth at Opera North in the UK, and TiturelParsifal with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons.

Other past successes include the artist’s return to Opera Australia as Ramfis Aida, and an appearance at Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago for Beethoven’s Mass in C. He sang Jesus in fully staged performances of St. Matthew Passion in Brisbane, and appeared as Seneca in a new production of L’Incoronazione di Poppea in Lille and Dijon.

Other notable appearances include Theseus in the new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for English National Opera, Collatinus The Rape of Lucretia for Opera Norway as well as Bach’s St. Matthew Passion for the Leeds International Concert Season.

Additionally, he appeared at Glyndebourne in two other roles: Claggart in their new production of Billy Budd, and Alidoro La Cenerentola. He sang his first Wotan in Das Rheingold with the Auckland Philharmonic to critical acclaim.

Donna is an award-winning soprano who has been honored as an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.

She sang her first major role, Marzelline, in BOC’s award-winning production of Fidelio and has returned to sing Cunegonde in Candide, Zerbinetta in the prologue of Ariadne auf Naxos and Elettra in Idomeneo.

Her expertise in contemporary operatic repertoire has earned her several major premieres, including her debut for The ROH, ROH2 as Miranda in The Gentle Giant; the role of Estella in Life is a Dream, by Jonathan Dove and the title role in American Lulu – Neuwirth/Berg for The Opera Group, Young Vic, Scottish Opera and Bregenz Festspiele co-production.

Concert highlights include La Cuisinière in Le Rossignol with the CBSO conducted by Sakari Oramo and Bernstein’s Mass with the LSO, conducted by Marin Alsop.

Nigel Robson was born in Argyleshire and studied with Alexander Young and Gustave Sacher. He is well established as one of Britain’s most versatile lyric tenors with an operatic and concert repertoire ranging from Monteverdi to the most contemporary of compositions, and is particularly well known for his interpretations of Britten.

In 2010 he enjoyed a huge success in Idomeneo for La Monnaie, with English Touring Opera in Goehr’s Promised End and also performed in a staging of Bernstein’s Mass in Munich.  In September 2014 he stepped in at very short notice to sing Bajazet/Tamerlano for the Theater an der Wien.  Recently he was in a production of Ulysses for English National Opera at The Young Vic in London, as well as taking on the role of Sacerdote/Idomeneo for the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and Arbace/Idomeneo and Chaplin/Carmélites for Grange Park Opera.

Other operatic engagements have included Bajazet/Tamerlano in Drottningholm; the title role in Peter Grimes for the Nationale Reisopera in Holland; Captain Vere/Billy Budd for the Canadian Opera Company; The Witch/Hansel and Gretel; Laca/Jenufa and Captain Vere/Billy Budd for Welsh National Opera; the title role in Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria in Lisbon and for Opera North; the title role in Idomeneo at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich; Male Chorus/The Rape of Lucretia at the Grand Théâtre de Tours; Pandarus/Troilus and Cressida for Opera North; The Madwoman/Curlew River for Opera Factory; Septimus/Theodora for Glyndebourne; Golo in Schumann’s Genoveva for Garsington Opera; Maderna’s Venetian Journal  and Satyricon for the Opera de Nancy in France and the Flanders Opera in Belgium, and Death in Venice at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

Concert appearances have included Stavinsky’s Les Noces with Rias Kammerchor, Maderna’s Satyricon with Klangforum Vienna and Venetian Journal with Peter Eotvos in Amsterdam; Bach’s St John Passion with the Orchestre National de Lille; Judas Maccabeus in Berlin; Jephtha with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; Britten’s Spring Symphony with the Rotterdam Philharmonic; Bournemouth Sinfonietta and Britten Sinfonia; Das Lied von der Erde with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Britten’s War Requiem in St Petersburg, Prague, Tel Aviv and Madrid; Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius in Bratislava and Aarhus; Die Schöne Mullerin in recital in Sheffield, and concerts with the Nieuw Ensemble in Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon, Milan and at the Edinburgh and Huddersfield International Festivals.

He premiered a project entitled ‘The Tenor Man’s Story’, which is very close to his own life and opened the 2005 Enschede Festival in Holland. At its centre is a poem written by his father about returning to Campbeltown, Scotland to see the grave of his sister Christine who died there, aged two. The form of the work is a multimedia recital with integrated audio and visual projections using the works of Britten, Dufay, Cage and the Beatles, as well as piano improvisations by Howard Moody and audio compositions of his own.

Nigel Robson’s recordings include Handel’s Tamerlano, Jephtha and Alexander’s Feast (Gardiner/Phillips Classics); Monteverdi’s Orfeo, Poppea and Vespers 1610 (Gardiner/Deutsche Grammophon Archiv); Tippett’s Songs for Dov (Tippett, Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Virgin Classics); Stravinsky’s Renard (Rattle/Sony Classics); Mozart’s Idomeneo/Arbace (Gardiner/Deutsche Grammophon Archiv); Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia/Male Chorus (Hickox/Chandos Records); Walton’s Troilus and Cressida/Pandarus (Hickox/Chandos Records); Delius’ Mass of Life (Hickox/Chandos Records); Janacek Jenufa/Laca (Sir Charles Mackerras/Chandos), and a dramatic TV film of Britten’s Abraham and Isaac for Dutch TV directed by Pierre Audi.

Synopsis
Setting

Ithaca, an island in the Ionian Sea.

Prologue

Time, Fortune and Cupid taunt Human Frailty and warn of the power they possess.

Act One

Penelope is waiting. She is waiting for the return of her husband, Ulysses, who left twenty years ago to fight in the Trojan War and has still not returned. She curses her beloved husband for leaving her abandoned at home, plagued by vying suitors, while he goes to fight over a beautiful Greek woman across the sea. He has put her in an impossible situation. The grief and ache of his twenty years’ absence are becoming too much for her and she begs with all her might that he might come home.

 

Penelope’s maid, Melantho ponders over the game of love. Eurymachus is captivated by Melantho and flattering her reveals his feelings for her. The affection is mutual and they agree that knowing of their shared love and denying each other of that love would be a crime. They hope that Penelope will also give into the flattering and admiration of one of her many suitors soon.

 

Ulysses, fast asleep, is brought to shore by the Phaecians. Neptune is furious with the Phaecians for bringing Ulysses home safely, for Ulysses was responsible for blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus. Jupiter persuades Neptune to give Ulysses a chance and to let him return home. Whilst Neptune agrees to this, he turns the Phaecians that helped him and their ship into stone, so that when Ulysses wakes he is alone and must fend for himself.

 

Ulysses wakes up not knowing where he is. He is hurt and angry to find himself abandoned by the Phaecians who had promised to bring him safely home to Ithaca. The Goddess Minerva appears disguised as a shepherd boy and informs Ulysses that he has in fact reached Ithaca. She then reveals her true identity to the relieved Ulysses and goes on to warn him that despite Penelope’s fidelity persistent suitors surround her. Minerva instructs Ulysses to adopt a disguise himself so as to catch the unsuspecting suitors when they next approach his wife. Minerva goes to find Ulysses’ son Telemachus, who will help him to reclaim his kingdom, whilst Ulysses waits with Eumaeus, an old, faithful servant who will also help him on the journey ahead.

 

Meanwhile, back at the Palace, Melantho pleads with Penelope to acknowledge that Ulysses must be dead and will never return. She begs her Queen to resist being an unhappy widow and to consider her future happiness, asking her to give in and to consider her living lovers, keen to marry, adore and support her.

 

In the countryside, Eumaeus is approached by Ulysses in his disguise as an old, beggar. He conveys the message to the delighted Eumaeus that his master, Ulysses will soon return.

Act Two

Minerva brings Telemachus to the disguised Ulysses, and Eumaeus shares the news of Ulysses’ anticipated return. Eumaeus leaves to tell Penelope the news. Suddenly, a ray of fire strikes from the sky, and the earth beneath Ulysses’ feet opens up, engulfing him. Telemachus fears that this is a sign of the death of his father. But this vision of death is soon transformed into one of life, as Telemachus finds himself looking into the eyes of his father, his disguise abandoned. Ulysses explains that was the disguise was a scheme of Minerva’s to ensure his safety. He sends Telemachus to his mother and once again adopts his disguise so as to begin his own route to the kingdom under his beggar’s cloak.

 

Melantho describes Penelope’s heart as a diamond, for her love and commitment to Ulysses is so strong that no words coaxing her to love again can soften her resolve. The only response Penelope offers to the love being thrown at her is hate.

 

Three suitors, Antinous, Peisander and Amphinomous try to woo Penelope, but as ever they are refused. Eumaeus arrives and tells the Queen that her son is on his way to her, and that Ulysses is alive and will also be returning to her soon. Penelope is unconvinced, sceptical that her husband is actually alive after so many years away. The suitors fear Ulysses’ return as they know he will see them as enemies and that their lives will be threatened. They decide to take matters into their own hands and to murder Telemachus, but just as they are devising this plot an eagle flies overhead, which they take to be a message of disapproval from the Gods. They abandon this plan and focus on finding new tactics to lure Penelope into making a positive decision, quickly, about taking a new husband.

 

In the Forest, Minerva reassures Ulysses that she has a plan to help him seek revenge. She will ensure that an event is organised, bringing the suitors together, which will bring Ulysses victory and the suitors their death.

 

Telemachus tells his mother about Helen’s sublime beauty. He tells her Helen had a premonition that Ulysses would indeed return home to Ithaca and on his arrival would slay his mother’s suitors.

 

The suitors scold Eumaeus for inviting a filthy beggar into the palace but Eumaeus defends his decision telling them that the beggar has been led there by Fortune. Penelope rules that the beggar should remain. When the suitors begin their fervent declarations of love to Penelope she responds by setting a challenge, that whoever can string Ulysses’ bow with the greatest ease will win both her hand and the Kingdom. Each of the suitors’ attempts are futile; they cannot string the bow. The beggar steps forward and relinquishing any hope of a prize solely requests a chance to string the bow himself. At the amazement of the suitors, he effortlessly strings the bow and shoots each of the suitors, who die instantly.

Act Three

Irus, the suitors’ parasitic servant, grieves for the suitors, for they were the only people in the world who looked out for him and fed him. Now, life feels hopeless to him and he fears that the only future ahead of him is death.

Penelope is in shock that the beggar she let into her palace caused the immediate deaths of the suitors. Eumaeus goes to her and informs her that the beggar was in fact Ulysses, and that her husband has returned to her. She is repelled by Eumaeus, convinced that he is lying to her. Her son, Telemachus, joins with Eumaeus, urging his mother to believe that Ulysses has returned.

Minerva appeals to Juno asking that Ulysses be allowed to live his life in peace, rightfully restored to his Kingdom, throne and wife. Jupiter speaks to Neptune and persuades him to end his pursuit of Ulysses too. Mercy is granted to Ulysses.

At the Palace, the nurse Eurycleia is torn as to whether be silent or to speak up, for she has noticed a scar on the back of the beggar which reveals his true identity to be the long, lost Ulysses. Then, Ulysses appears in his true form before Penelope who keeps her distance, scared that this is a cruel trick and that she is being deceived. Eurycleia and Eumaeus both try to convince Penelope but she remains untrusting. However, when Ulysses speaks of their bed always covered with a silk throw made by Penelope’s own hands she realises that no other person could possibly know something so intimate and so personal. She rushes to the man standing before her, elated that after so many years her husband, her only love, had finally come home.