Tuesday, August 25, 2015
CAVALLI : LA CALISTO
La Calisto (1651) is an opera by Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) from a libretto by Giovanni Faustini based on the mythological story of Callisto. (note the double L [-ll-)] as in Greek kallisté, 'most beautiful'; her Hellenic name is Kallistô).
The setting is Pelasgia in the Peloponnese, later known as Arcadia, named after Arcades, the son of Jove and Calisto
Jove (alias Jupiter, Zeus) takes a fancy to Callisto, a nymph in the circle of Diana (Artemis); Diana is under a vow of virginal chastity, though the shepherd Endimione (Endymion) is in love with her, and she is minded to reciprocate his love; but the god Pan also hankers after her and punishes his rival.
Jove takes the advice of Mercury (Hermes) and disguises himself as Diana (this god will go to any extreme to have his way with women). This works. However, the real Diana is puzzled by Callisto's sudden amorous behaviour towards her.
Enter jealous Juno, Jove's ever suspicious spouse; she quickly twigs, and turns Calisto into a little bear. Jove takes her to Olympus and installs her as a star, Ursa Minor.
Endimion and Diana will be content with eternal chaste love, with none of the complications that have occurred in the other encounters we have observed.
Those are the elements of the plot, but they are not necessarily in that order in the drama (comical as it is).
I have two recordings: Glyndebourne, Raymond Leppard, Janet Baker as Diana, Ileana Cotrubas as Calisto (2 black discs, Argo/Decca 1972); Glimmerglass Opera, Jane Glover, abridged from 2h 10m to 78m (one compact disc, BBC 1996).