Ars Minerva gave its first public performances in March of 2015, when it presented a fully-staged reconstruction of Daniele da Castrovillari’s 1662 opera La Cleopatra. The ensemble was founded by Executive & Artistic Director Céline Ricci, drawing upon her considerable experience in historically-informed performances of the pre-Classical repertoire. She both created the staging for La Cleopatra and sang the title role. Instrumental accompaniment was provided by Derek Tam conducting from the harpsichord. A little over a year later the same team created a full-staged reconstruction of Carlo Pallavicino’s opera The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles.
The results of the group’s next project will be performed at the beginning of the new season this coming September. This time the opera will be La Circe, whose composition is attributed to Pietro Andrea Ziani. The work was first performed in Vienna in 1665 as part of the birthday celebrations for the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. There is no record of it having been performed after that occasion.
The title character is the sorceress best known from the Odyssey. She held Odysseus and his crew captive on her island after having first turned the latter into swine. She then tried to seduce Odysseus, who managed to avoid her wiles by virtues of having been warned in advance by Hermes. Odysseus was thus able to restore his crew to human form and escape the island. Ziani’s opera begins after Odysseus’ departure and deals with the consequences of Circe having been tricked by Odysseus with Hermes assistance.
This opera will be semi-staged by Ricci, who will again sing the title role. The production will include an acrobat (Katherine Hutchinson), as well as seven other vocalists: Kyle Stegall, Kindra Scharich, William Sauerland, Jasmine Johnson, Aurélie Veruni, and Jonathan Smucker. Derek Tam will again conduct from the harpsichord. His instrumentalists will consist of a string quartet of violinists Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo and Natalie Carducci, violist Addi Liu, and cellist Gretchen Claassen. Continuo support will be provided by Adam Cockerham on theorbo. The opera will be sung in Italian with English supertitles using a translation by Joe McClinton.
La Circe will be given two performances, both at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 8, and Saturday, September 9. The venue will be the ODC Theater, located in the Mission at 3153 17th Street on the southwest corner of Shotwell Street. Ticket prices are the “Gold” rate of $86 and the “Silver” rate of $56. Students will be admitted for $25, and there is a special VIP rate that includes a post-performance reception with the artists, a program booklet signed by all of those artists, and a tax-deductible contribution of $130. Tickets may be purchased through separate event pages for the Friday and Saturday performances.