The course of true love runs pretty bumpily in English Touring Opera's autumn season with Xerxes, La Calisto and Ulysses’ Homecoming
Set against the background of real historical characters and events Handel’s Xerxes is the gently humorous story of a series of potential matches and mismatches entangled, manipulated, confused, disguised and ultimately straightened out. In this revival of the company’s successful 2011 production, the original Venetian text is relocated to the 1940 Battle of Britain and the Persian king recast as a glamorous prince-turned-pilot jealous of his brother’s stronger sex appeal.
More sexual entanglements are charted in Cavalli’s La Calisto but with gods thrown in for good measure. The infatuation of married Jove with the lovely Calisto and the unlikely attraction of virgin Diana to the handsome youth Endymion enmesh them in love wars as comical as they are dangerous.
Gods feature again in Monteverdi’s masterpiece, Ulysses’ Homecoming (Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria), recounting the delicate interplay between gods and men when, twenty years after the end of the disastrous Trojan war, Ulysses returns to his wife Penelope – to find she is being courted by a houseful of admirers.
Alongside the operas the autumn tour includes a new kind of performance of the Bach oratorio St John Passion which narrates the Passion of Christ as told in the Gospel of John. Employing new English translations of the chorales from writers of different faiths and backgrounds it will feature over thirty local cathedral, gospel and youth choirs around the country.
English Touring Opera’s autumn tour opens at the Hackney Empire on October 8 with Handel’s Xerxes and continues with Cavalli’s La Calisto on October 14 and Monteverdi’s Ulysses’s Homecoming on October 15. Rochester Cathedral hosts the first performance of Bach’s St John Passion on October 16.