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date: 14 October 2019

Cadmus et Hermione (‘Cadmus and Hermione’)locked

  • Lois Rosow

Extract

(‘Cadmus and Hermione’)

Tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully (see Lully family (opera) §(1)) to a libretto by Philippe Quinault after Ovid Metamorphoses; Paris, Jeu de paume de Béquet, 27 April 1673.

The prologue tells the mythological tale of Apollo (symbolic of Louis XIV, who attended the première) slaying the serpent Python – a reference to an ongoing war against the Dutch. The tragedy, set in ancient Greece, concerns the prince Cadmus (baritone; immediately afterwards Lully established the haute-contre as the usual voice type for leading male lovers) and Hermione (soprano), daughter of Mars (baritone) and Vénus [Venus] (soprano). They love each other, but Mars has betrothed Hermione to the giant Draco (baritone). To win Hermione’s hand, Cadmus proves his bravery to Mars by killing a dragon, sowing the dragon’s teeth and vanquishing the soldiers who spring forth from them; he then defeats Draco.

Cadmus, however, is merely a pawn of the gods, who descend on spectacularly decorated machinery. He relies on his personal strength to kill the dragon, but his other victories are achieved only with the help of L’Amour [Cupid] (soprano) – responding to an invocation by Hermione – and Pallas (soprano), both acting on Jupiter’s behalf (Cupid was sung by a foreign castrato in performances at the French court in ...

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