A Baroque opera by a Spanish-born composer in Peru, Torrejon y Velasco’s La
Purpura de la Rosa, is possibly not known to many, if at all. This first
American opera has been revived in a first Israel performance by the Ensemble
Phoenix of early instruments and the Voce Phoenix singers, conducted by Myrna
The work’s plot is based on the story of Venus and Adonis. Its
music is firmly rooted in the Spanish Baroque style, spiced amusingly with Latin
American rhythms and local instruments such as castanets.
Unlike much of
Spanish Baroque music, there is a lot of hot-blooded human passion in this
piece. It radiates good fun, despite some repetitious segments. The most human,
passionate figures were, paradoxically, some of the deities. The God of War
Marte, in particular, did not appear as belligerent as one would imagine, but
cut an almost tragic figure, dolefully bemoaning the loss of Venus’ love,
movingly impersonated by countertenor Alon Harari. The Goddess of Love Venus’
intense emotions were credibly conveyed by Revital Raviv’s expressive
All the singers and instrumentalists obviously enjoyed their
roles immensely, infecting the audience with their vibrant identification with
what they were doing.
The performance was semi-staged suggestively and
tastefully by Regina Alexandrovskaya.
It was a delightful acquaintance
with a little-known musical New World.
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