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Rameau's Castor and Pollux

3 hours
First broadcast:
Saturday 14 January 2012

Here's something: a love square. Two sides are made from Castor and Pollux, twin progeny of Jupiter, one divine one mortal. The term 'brotherly love' might have been coined for them. The other two sides, a pair of sisters: Telaïre and Phoebe.

Both Castor and Pollux love Telaïre; Phoebe loves Pollux but the sentiment is not reciprocated. Telaïre loves Castor better than Pollux and when Castor is killed in battle she asks the surviving sibling to get Jupiter to bring him back to life. Thinking that his brother's happiness is more important than his own, Pollux sets about helping out. But nothing's simple and terms and conditions apply: Jupiter has decreed that Pollux must exchange his immortality for Castor's mortality. And it gets worse. As Pollux enters the Underworld to reclaim Castor, he not only has to endure the all the horrors the nether regions have to throw at him, but he also has to put up with Phoebe and her endless jealousy.

All's well that ends well - if not for everybody. Jupiter decides to make both brothers immortal and sends them up to the heavens to become the Gemini (what else?) constellation. Phoebe has killed herself; Telaïre is left on earth, bereft. It's a happy ending, Greek myth-style.

Although Rameau is one of the great dramatic composers the baroque era and 'Castor and Pollux' is widely regarded as his masterpiece, this is the first time any Rameau opera has been staged at ENO. A cast including some of the UK's finest young singers is conducted by period instrument specialist Christian Curnyn in this new production by Barry Kosky, translated by Amanda Holden.

Presented by Donald Macleod in conversation with Simon Heighes

Castor..... Allan Clayton (tenor)
Pollux..... Roderick Williams (baritone)
Telaïre..... Sophie Bevan (soprano)
Phoebe..... Laura Tatulescu (soprano)
Jupiter..... Henry Waddington (bass)
High Priest of Jupiter..... Andrew Rupp (baritone)
Mercury/Athlete..... Ed Lyon (tenor)

English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Conductor.....Christian Curnyn.

  • Allan Clayton as Castor and Roderick Williams as Pollux

    Allan Clayton as Castor and Roderick Williams as Pollux

    With Henry Waddington as Jupiter
    (c) ENO / Alastair Muir

  • Allan Clayton as Castor and Sophie Bevan as Télaïre

    Allan Clayton as Castor and Sophie Bevan as Télaïre

    (c) ENO / Alastair Muir

  • Roderick Williams as Pollux and Laura Tatulescu as Phébé

    Roderick Williams as Pollux and Laura Tatulescu as Phébé

    (c) ENO / Alastair Muir

  • Ed Lyon as Mercury

    Ed Lyon as Mercury

    (c) ENO / Alastair Muir

  • Synopsis

    Castor and Pollux are brothers. Castor is mortal, while Pollux, whose father is the god Jupiter, is immortal. Both men love the same woman – Télaïre – who, though betrothed to Pollux, returns only Castor’s love. Télaïre’s sister, Phébé, is also in love with Castor.

  • Act I

    Phebe reflects on the forthcoming marriage of Pollux and Telaire. Fearing that Pollux might be persuaded to give up Telaire in his brother’s favour, Phebe plans to enter into an alliance with Lyncaeus and have her sister abducted. Alone, Telaire laments her situation. Castor enters to bid Telaire farewell: he has told Pollux of his love for her and prefers to go into exile rather than see her married to his brother. Pollux releases Telaire from her promise to him: she and Castor can now marry. The wedding celebrations are interrupted by an attack from Lyncaeus’ forces during which Castor is killed.

  • Act II

    All are in mourning for Castor. Phebe tells Telaire that she can bring Castor back from the dead as long as her sister agrees to relinquish her love for him. Pollux announces that he has avenged Castor’s death by killing Lyncaeus. Telaire tells Pollux about Phebe’s plan; Pollux, however, decides to ask Jupiter’s permission to go the Underworld himself and set Castor free.

  • Act III

    Pollux, regretting his own immortality if Castor is to remain dead, asks for Jupiter’s help in rescuing Castor from the Underworld. But Jupiter has no jurisdiction over the laws of Hades: Pollux can only release Castor by agreeing to give up his immortality and take his brother’s place in the Underworld. Despite Jupiter showing him a vision of the heavenly pleasures which his immortality will one day confer on him, Pollux selflessly accepts the conditions of Castor’s freedom.

  • Act IV

    At the entrance to the Underworld, the spurned Phebe calls for Castor’s release. Mercury and Pollux appear. Mercury tells Phebe that her efforts are in vain: only Pollux can succeed. Pollux braves the fierce demons guarding the entrance to Hades; with Mercury’s help, he begins his descent.

    In the Elysian Fields, Castor has found no happiness, for he still longs for Telaire. He is overjoyed when Pollux arrives. Despite the prospect of seeing Telaire again, he cannot bring himself to accept Pollux’s sacrifices. He finally agrees to return to earth, but for one day only.

  • Act V

    Having seen Castor and Telaire reunited, Phebe expresses her anger. Despite Telaire’s pleas, Castor holds to his promise: he must return to Hades after a single day on earth.

    Jupiter appears. He annuls Castor’s promise and brings back Pollux from the Underworld. The two brothers are displaced as a constellation to the sky. Telaire remains alone.

    (c) ENO



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