Classical Review: South American Baroque

Velasco: La Purpura de la Rosa; Jerusalem Khan, December 5.

Israel Opera Chorus 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel Opera Chorus 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 Herzog.
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 soprano.
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.