First collaboration ever between conductor William Christie and director Luc Bondy ― who tackled Haendel’s repertoire for the first time ―, this production of “Hercules” was the major event of the 2004 opera season. Originally Created in Aix-en-Provence in July 2004, the show then moved on to the Palais Garnier in Paris where it was recorded in December of the same year.
Hercules returns from the war with Iole, a princess he fell in love with. Mad with jealousy, Déjanire, his wife, ends up totally insane after poisoning her husband.
Half theatrical performance, half secular oratorio, Hercules wasn’t originally meant to be performed in front of an audience. Luc Bondy chose to show the dramatis personae as ordinary people victims of their passions. The superb chorus of the Arts Florissants, both mediator and prosecutor, is the main witness of this tragedy of women’s jealousy.
The Orchestre des Arts Florissants, conducted by William Christie, is at its best with Haendel, allowing Christie to support and accompany a stellar vocal cast. With his great presence, British baritone William Shimel gives a spectacular death to his hero while American mezzo Joyce DiDonato excels as Déjanire. Gifted with a particularly rich timbre, she displays an admirable singing technique and superlative dramatic abilities. Soprano Ingela Bohlia and mezzo Malena Ernmann, both from Sweden, make marvels in the supporting roles. Last but not least, British tenor Toby Spence serves the beautiful role of Hyllus with his elegant singing.
Assisted by set designer Richard Peduzzi, wardrobe master Rudy Saboughi and lightning engineer Dominique Bruguière, Luc Bondy has gathered the crème de la crème of the French stage.
Director Vincent Bataillon is a specialist of live performances in Aix-en-Provence (“Turn of the Screw”, “L’Incoronazione di Poppea” or “Don Giovanni”) and recreates the magic of the show with his usual talent.
The movie Hercules received the student prize at the Golden Prague 2005.