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Donald Macleod continues his exploration of the life and work of Luigi Cherubini with a look at what are probably his two most influential operas - Medée and Les deux journées. Better known in its truncated Italian version, Medée first saw the light of day on 13 March 1797 at the Théâtre Feydeau in Paris. With a plot that makes Fatal Attraction look like a lovers' tiff, it proved strong meat for Parisian audiences, who in those Revolutionary times already had a surfeit of gut-wrenching carnage in their day-to-day lives, and didn't need more of it served up in the theatre. It never really took off in Cherubini's day, although it was hugely respected by other composers, including Beethoven, who owned a score of it, and later Brahms, who called it "the work we musicians recognise among ourselves as the highest piece of dramatic art". It languished for the first half of the 20th-century until in 1953, Maria Callas performed it in Florence, under the baton of a young Leonard Bernstein, and it's her demonic performance - albeit of an inauthentic version - that reawakened interest in the work. By contrast, Les deux journées - or The Water-Carrier, as it became known outside France - was immediately successful. With its message of social and political reconciliation, conveyed simply and directly, it was to remain a fixture in the international repertory for most of the 19th century.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Tue 1 May 2012 18:30

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