Raphaël Pichon
Raphaël Pichon | Photo: Piergab

Musical leader Raphaël Pichon and director Romeo Castellucci on Le lacrime di Eros

1 March 2024

A rebirth rather than a reconstruction

Raphaël Pichon: “For years, I have wondered how a masterpiece like Monteverdi’s l’Orfeo could have come about. Of course I know Monteverdi was a genius, but there is still a gap in our knowledge about the origins of opera. The foremost aim of this project was to pay homage to an exceptional period in music history. The sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries were a period of immense possibilities in Florence, with artists in various disciplines working together on a unique quest. They wanted to find out how to convey human passions on stage. That inevitably meant a key role for the topic of love.”

Romeo Castellucci: “Love is the central theme running through the music of Le lacrime di Eros. It is the foundation used by poets to develop a new language, retell old stories and address new problems and discoveries. The negative side of love is exposed in the songs Raphaël and I selected. Love is never fulfilled; it is always accompanied by loss, tears and suffering. It is a trope, a commonplace concept that takes on a different meaning every time, always revealing an urge, a need. The texts reverberate with a bitterness and emptiness. But that void also provides an opportunity for creativity, to form images that speak to our souls.”

Raphaël Pichon: “We created an opportunity to present a remarkable repertoire of work by composers such as Peri, Caccini, Marenzio and Cavalieri, significant and highly talented composers who nevertheless are rarely performed on stage today. The repertoire is extensive, ranging from intimate melodies for a lone singer to large-scale madrigals. But this work is not intended as a museum experience or reconstruction. We’re going back to the roots: why did people want opera? What need was it fulfilling? It is also about returning to that period and re-examining the music from a modern perspective. Just as experimentation was at the heart of the approach back then, we too are experimenting with new technologies as a way of bringing together the acoustic experience of that period and the modern day.”

Romeo Castellucci: “The Renaissance started with the rediscovery of classical Antiquity. The very word ‘Renaissance’ literally means ‘rebirth’. Similarly, in Le lacrime di Eros we let opera as an art form be reborn as it were, using the theatrical resources we have at our disposal today.”

Romeo Castellucci
Romeo Castellucci

Text: Jasmijn van Wijnen

Romeo Castellucci

The Italian theatre and opera director, playwright and fine artist Romeo Castellucci is known for his radical imagery in ambitious productions. His powerful work is featured on the world’s leading stages. At Dutch National Opera, he previously created a compelling production of Das Floß der Medusa by Hans Werner Henze.

Raphaël Pichon

Raphaël Pichon, the French orchestral and choral conductor, founded the ensemble Pygmalion in 2006. The ensemble consists of a choir and an orchestra that use historically accurate instruments to explore the connections between Bach and Mendelssohn, Schütz and Brahms, and Rameau, Gluck and Berlioz. His project ‘Stravaganza d’amore’ has already garnered enthusiastic reviews: according to Gramophone magazine, “The results are fascinating and, at
times, revelatory”.

Ensemble Pygmalion

The Pygmalion ensemble, founded in 2006 by Raphaël Pichon, has a unique and highly contemporary take on the tradition of old music. The ensemble, which consists of a choir and an orchestra, has evolved over the years into one of the most significant groups performing old music, and one of the most popular among Dutch audiences. Le lacrime di Eros is the crowning achievement of ‘Stravaganza d’amore’, a long-running research and performance project of Raphaël Pichon and Pygmalion exploring opera’s Florentine roots.