Donizetti Poliuto at Glyndebourne today! In November, the opera in its French langauge version, Les Martyrs, was done by Opera Rara (my review here). What a buzz that created! After that Les Martyrs, I could hardly wait for Poliuto. This kind of programming,is good because it expands the way we listen and learn. Moreover this year marks the centenary of the Armenian Holocaust. It's as well that we should remember the centuries of conflict from which that arose. My review of the Glyndebourne production is HERE.
The opera, or operas, are both set in Armenia, when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire. But beware thinking that the opera is somehow "about" Armenia . It's not ! The story could have happened anywhere in the Roman Empire. It still happens today - think ISIS, Falun Gong, etc etc. Unfortunately those who don't actually engage with opera don't care enough about opera to get past reading the first line of a synopsis.
Donizetti's impetus was a play by Corneille, written two hundred years previously. It deals with the persecution of Christians by the Romans. Most Christian converts were underclass, but Polyeucte (Poliuto) was a pillar of the Roman establishment, with much more to lose by espousing a subversive cause. Although the story is clothed in Christian piety, it represents something far more dangerous. Unsurprisngly, Donizetti ran into trouble with Poliuto. It was banned by the King of Sicily, who didn't think religious subjects should be done in the theatre at all. Quite possibly he didn't get the underlying message of social upheaval. Donizetti then revised it for French audiences who were more liberal. It also gave him an entrée into French grand opera. Of course the Christians win in the end, for a while, but for the time being we get a spectacle of blood and gore as Poliuto gets fed to the lions (as far as that can be depicted in the theatre)
Please read my review of the Glyndebourne Poliuto in Opera Today