Sources: Wikipedia, and University of Texas North Libraries site.
LULLY Persée (Perseus)
Louis XIV's involvement in campaigns against the Dutch/Swedish alliance
in early 1682 prevented him from attending the premiere of Persée in
April of that year. As was customary in the operas of composer
Jean-Baptiste Lully and librettist Philippe Quinault, the prologue
included references to current battlefield exploits and portrayed the
king as a paragon of virtue. The prologues of previous Lully operas
emphasized glory and prowess over virtue; the change in emphasis in
Persée may have resulted from the increased influence of Madame de
Maintenon (the king's new mistress) in the court and her pension for
decorum. In his dedication, Lully states his intentions: "I understand
that in describing the favorable Gifts which Persée has received from
the Gods and the astonishing enterprises which he has achieved so
gloriously, I am tracing a Portrait of the heroic qualities and the
wonderful deeds of Your Majesty."
Genre: tragédie lyrique (Tragédie en musique)
Composer: Jean-Baptiste Lully, 1632-1687
Librettist: Philippe Quinault, 1635-1688
Libretto based on: a story from Ovid's Metamorphoses
Setting: Various mythological places
Premiere: Paris, Palais-Royal, April 17 or 18, 1682
First published: Paris: Christophe Ballard, 1682
Volume in the UNT Lully Collection: Second edition, Paris: J. B. C. Ballard, 1722
Persée son of Jupiter and Danaë haute-contre Louis Gaulard Dumesny
Andromède daughter of Céphée soprano
Phinée, brother of Céphée baritone François Beaumavielle
Mérope, sister of Cassiope soprano Marie Le Rochois
Phronime, attendant of Virtue
Mégathyme, attendant of Virtue
Céphée, King of Ethiopia bass
Cassiope, Queen of Ethiopia mezzo-soprano
Amphimédon, an Ethiopian
Corite, an Ethiopian
Proténor, an Ethiopian
Méduse, a Gorgon tenor
Euryale, a Gorgon tenor, descant above Méduse
Sténone, a Gorgon baritone
Idas, a Sailor in Céphée's navy
High priest of Hymenée (wedding priest)
Triton, Neptune's henchman
2004 production by Opera Atelier performed live at the Elgin Theatre
under the direction of Marshall Pynkoski and conducted by Hervé Niquet
in Toronto is the first home video release of the opera. It features
Cyril Auvity (Persée), Marie Lenormand (Andromeda), Stephanie Novacek
(Cassiope), Monica Whicher (Mérope), Olivier Laquerre (Céphée/Méduse
(the latter transposed from F to E-flat)), Alain Coutomber (Phinée), and
Colin Ainsworth (Mercure). The designer was Gérard Gauci and the
choreographer was Jeannette Zingg. Marc Stone directed the television
The plot of Persée is loosely taken from an episode in
Ovid's Metamorphoses, concerning the death of the snake-haired Gorgon
Medusa (Méduse) at the hands of Perseus (Persée), son of the god Jupiter
(Zeus) and the mortal woman Danaë. Grand spectacle permeates Persée,
which includes the famous decapitation of the Mèduse. A quadrangle of
genuine and unrequited lovers forms the center of plot with the genuine
love of Andromède and Persée prevailing in the end.
concerns the love between Persée and Andromède, who is already betrothed
to Phinée, while Mérope loves Persée. Persée is able to triumph and win
Andromède by overcoming supernatural enemies, including the Gorgon
Méduse, using weapons he is granted by the gods. Phinée's jealousy pits
him against Persée, leading to the ultimate confrontation. Mérope allies
with Phinée at first, but has a change of heart.
in a dark forest. Virtue sees herself threatened by faltering Fortune.
Fortune appears in the company of Splendor and Abundance and asks Virtue
to create a Hero (recognized as King Louix XIV) as a peace offering.
All praise the newly-created Hero, who in the opera to follow will be
championed by Apollo.
Act I The curtains open to
reveal a magnificently decorated public square in Ethiopia. King Céphée
expresses the terror his people feel for the snake-haired Mèduse, who
threatens the Ethiopian people with her baleful gaze that turns anyone
she looks on to stone.. To curry favor with Juno, the Ethiopians prepare
a series of plays. As the plot begins to unfold, we learn that Mérope,
sister-in-law of the king, secretly loves Persée. However, Persée loves
and is loved by Androméde, the king's daughter. Androméde, on the other
hand, is betrothed to Phinée, her uncle, who suspects that she has
another love interest. The plays are abruptly interrupted by a messenger
who announces that Mèduse is again transforming people into stone.
II takes place in the Gardens of Céphée's palace. Céphée announces that
Persée is willing to release the Ethiopians from Mèduse's grip by
cutting off her head. As a reward, he is to have Androméde as his own.
Androméde and Mérope fear for Persée's life and pray for his safe
return. In taking his leave, Persée learns that, although promised to
Phinée, Androméde loves only him. Mercure assures Persée of the
assistance of all the Gods (with the exception of Juno--jealous, as
usual, of Jupiter's illegitimate child). A troupe of Cyclops brings a
sword forged by Vulcan to Persée, nymphs bring Pallas's diamond shield,
and a band of underworld demons present him with the helmet of Pluto.
III opens in the cave of the Gorgons. The snake-haired Mèduse
describes the terrible fate she has endured through the jealousy of
Pallas in a powerful air, "Je port l'epouvante" ("I bear terror").
Mercure casts a powerful spell with his own exquisite air, "O tranquille
sommeil," which causes a deep sleep to come over Mèduse. Using Pallas's
shield as a mirror to avoid the fell gaze of the Gorgon, Persée
decapitates Mèduse. Then, using Pluto's helmet to make himself
invisible, Persée flees the wrath of the remaining Gorgons carrying
Act IV the Ethiopians are awaiting the
victorious Persée on a rocky seacoast as a storm arises. A sailor, Idas,
enters to announce that the furious Juno, in alliance with Neptune, is
determined to sacrifice Andromède to a sea-monster. Phinée, rather than
defending Andromède, admits that he would rather see her dead than in
the arms of his rival in an impassioned air, L'Amour meurt dans mon
coeur ("Love dies in my heart"). Before the despairing eyes of the king,
the Tritons chain Andromède to a rock. At the last moment, Persée flies
toward the approaching monster and kills it. The storm ends and the
Ethiopians return to the beach to celebrate victory.
V The first scene takes place in a place prepared for the wedding of
Persée and Androméde. Mérope, who mourns her lost hope of marrying
Persée, longs for death. She and Phinée, with the help of Juno, decide
to avenge themselves on Persée. As the high priest starts the wedding
ceremony, however, Mérope repents of her treachery and interrupts to
tell Persée of Phinée's advancing army. The guests flee and Persée and
Phinée do battle. With Juno protecting Phinée, it seems that he will
win; however, Persée, using the remaining power of the Gorgon's head,
turns his enemy to stone.
The scene changes to Venus' palace.
Venus announces to the Ethiopians that Juno is appeased and that, from
now on, they will live in peace. While Céphée, Cassiope, Persée and
Androméde hover on Mercure's wings, the Ethiopians celebrate with
dancing and singing.