Opera Scotland

Judgment of Paris The Judgment of Paris, or the Prize Music

Music

John Eccles (born perhaps London, c1668; died Hampton Wick, 12 January 1735)

Text

William Congreve (1670-1726).

Source

Classical legend.

 

Premieres

First performance: London (Dorset Garden Theatre), 21 March 1701.

First performance in Scotland: St Andrews (Younger Hall), 10 June 2011.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

John Eccles is perhaps the great "might have been" of English music in the years after Purcell, with whom he had collaborated on some theatre pieces. Eccles was a friend of Congreve, and composed the music for two of his great comedies, Love for Love (1695) and The Way of the World (1700). His masterpiece is his opera Semele, composed to a text by Congreve in 1707. Sadly, its composition was mistimed and, as a result of the sudden craze for Italian opera, its premiere was cancelled. It was not performed until 1972, and Congreve's wonderful libretto was eventually used by Handel. Eccles himself stopped composing for the theatre, though he lived on for many years. The Judgment of Paris is an earlier work on a smaller scale, described as a masque. It fits neatly into the tradition of small-scale stage works established by Blow with Venus and Adonis and Purcell with Dido and Aeneas. It was one of several composed to this text in a competition, and came second.

 

Characters

Mercury, messenger of the gods (baritone)

Paris, a shepherd (tenor)

Juno, goddess of marriage (mezzo-soprano)

Pallas, goddess of war (soprano)

Venus, goddess of love (soprano)

 

Plot Summary

The plot concerns the classical legend in which Paris is required by Zeus to assess the respective charms of three goddesses. The winner will be awarded a golden apple, provided for the occasion. As Mercury comments, on breaking this news to the shepherd, "Happy thou of Human Race, Gods with thee would change their Place." Each goddess sings an air that reveals her character, and Paris eventually finds Venus irresistible.

The Cast

Juno
 goddess of marriage
Mercury
 messenger of the gods
Pallas
 goddess of war
Paris
 a shepherd
Venus
 goddess of love

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