Henze’s astonishing final opera Phaedra is brought to life by The Royal Opera's Jette Parker Young Artists in May 2019 in the Linbury Theatre, directed by Noa Naamat and conducted by Edmund Whitehead.
Phaedra was given its world premiere in 2007. Hans Werner Henze’s final opera challenges our expectations of what opera can and should be.
It re-imagines the Classical myth of Phaedra and her stepson Hippolytus (Hippolyt) placing them at the centre of the action. Phaedra’s desire for Hippolyt fills her with self-loathing and she attempts suicide. Aphrodite stops her. She is jealous of Hippolyt’s loyalty to the goddess Artemis and takes revenge by inciting Phaedra to action.
Phaedra confesses her feelings to Hippolyt but he rejects her. She swears vengeance, and writes to Theseus, falsely accusing Hippolyt of rape. Theseus asks for Poseidon’s help to kill Hippolyt. Poseidon resurrects his son the Minotaur, who terrifies Hippolyt’s horses, causing them to overturn his chariot. Hippolyt dies. Phaedra commits suicide out of guilt while the Minotaur dances.
Artemis brings Hippolyt back to life, locks him in a cage and gives him a new name, Virbius. Aphrodite attempts to take him to the Underworld, but Artemis conceals him in a cave. Phaedra's spirit attempts to lure Hippolyt into the Underworld, but he escapes the cave, and is resurrected as King of the Forest.
Chinese mezzo-soprano Hongni Wu sings the title role, alongside American soprano Jacquelyn Stucker as Aphrodite, American countertenor Patrick Terry as Artemis, Scottish-Iranian bass-baritone Michael Mofidian as the Minotaur (Minotaurus) and New Zealand tenor Filipe Manu (who will join the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in September) as Hippolyt, in his Royal Opera debut.
The production features work by international performance designer takis and atmospheric lighting design by 2019 Olivier Award nominee Lee Curran. He made his Royal Ballet debut in 2014 and has since returned to create the lighting design for Hofesh Shechter’s Untouchable for The Royal Ballet, and Orphée et Eurydice for The Royal Opera.
Phaedra opens at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre on 15 May 2019, with subsequent performances on 16, 18 and 20 May 2019.