Opera Scotland

Venus and Adonis

Music

John Blow (born Newark, c February 1649; died London, 1 October 1708)

Text

Anon

Source

Ovid and Shakespeare.

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Court venue unknown), date unknown, c 1684.

First Performance in Scotland (concert): Glasgow (Mackintosh Church), 2 October 2015.

 

Background

John Blow trained as a boy chorister in the Chapel Royal, and in 1668 was appointed to the position of organist at Westminster Abbey. He was a noted composer of church music, and taught Purcell. He ceded his position at the abbey to his greatest student in 1680, resuming it after Purcell's death in 1695. Blow was active as a composer for the Court, and this short piece, much influenced by the French works King Charles might have seen during his years of exile, in turn must have influenced Purcell when he composed Dido and Aeneas soon afterwards.

Little is known of the circumstances of composition of Venus and Adonis. According to Loewenberg's Annals of Opera, a manuscript in the British Museum describes it as a 'Masque for the Entertainment of the King'. The role of Venus was played by Mary Davies, an actress who was the King's mistress, according to Pepys, from 1667. Their daughter, Lady Mary Tudor, who played Cupid, was born in 1673, so was only twelve when Charles II died in 1685. A performance in 1684 therefore seems a likely option.

 

Characters

Venus (soprano)

Adonis (bass)

Cupid (soprano)

 

Plot Summary

Venus, a little bit jaded by their affair, persuades her lover, Adonis, to join the hunt, as absence makes the heart grow fonder. Cupid comforts her during the hunt, bringing the three graces to dance for her. Venus finally becomes desperate to see her lover again, but when Adonis is at last brought in, he is dying, having been gored by the boar that he was hunting.

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