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Actéon (Actaeon)
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Opera Atelier production, April 2005
with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Artists of Atelier Ballet
Elgin Theatre, Toronto

Charpentier’s opéra de chasse Actéon was written for private entertainment at the court of Louis XIV. It is thought that it may have been composed for the Princesse de Guise. The date and exact location of its premiere are unknown but the autographed manuscript of the work was sold to the king’s library in 1727 and now belongs to the Bibliothèque Nationale. The story comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the Theban hunter Actaeon spies on the virgin goddess Diana while she is bathing. As punishment, Diana turns Actaeon into a stag, and subsequently his own men and hounds hunt him to his death.

Opera Atelier’s production of Actéon was coupled with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. The production has played in Montreal and New York City.

Gerard Gauci: Central to the story of this opera is the fountain where Diana is discovered bathing. This painted fountain platform is the focal point for the action and creates a scene that calls to mind the charming groups of porcelain figures that were so popular as luxury table décor in the 18th century.