Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842)

19, 22, 28 October |  3 November

Opéra comique in three acts acts by Luigi Cherubini (1760–1842)

Liberto by Francois Benoit Hoffman (Italian version by Carlo Zangarini) based on Euripides' tragedy of Medea and Pierre Corneille's play Médée, sung in Italian with English Surtitles

First performed at the Théâtre Feydeau in Paris, 13 March 1797

It was not only Beethoven who regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his peers. Many of the foremost 19th-century composers from the Austro-German tradition admired Cherubini – an Italian who spent most of his career in France – and his most famous opera in particular. Medea was Schubert’s favourite work for the lyric stage, and for all his seemingly unoperatic temperament Brahms was moved to call it the work ‘which we musicians regard as the summit of dramatic music’. Yet despite all this, and the part that Maria Callas played in reviving its fortunes (beginning with her performance at the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1952) after it disappeared from sight in the early 20th century, despite even more recent revivals in its original French form as Médée, Cherubini’s masterpiece remains a work of which everyone has heard, but relatively few opera lovers have actually experienced in the theatre.

Medea is a fierce work, and not simply because of its subject matter; plenty of uncompromising plots have been watered down before reaching the operatic stage. As the New Grove Dictionary of Opera explains, ‘In its unmitigated horror, this opera has few equals. Its savage fury ties it closely to its Greek ancestry.’ It is all the more astonishing, then, to remember that it was written a mere six years after Die Zauberflöte. If its premiere, at the Théâtre Faydeau in Paris in 1797, was little more than a succès d’estime, it went on to inspire more enthusiasm in the German-speaking world. Cherubini, who composed over 30 operas as well as large quantities of church and chamber music, was himself fully cosmopolitan and stands apart from other Italian composers of his day. Having moved to Paris early on in his career and enjoyed aristocratic patronage, he had some trouble adapting to post-Revolution conditions, though not enough to stop him being appointed Napoleon’s director of music in Vienna in 1805–6. Dying in old age in Paris in 1842, he was buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, in a plot near to where Chopin would join him seven years later.

A co-production with Opera Omaha

28 October performance generously supported by

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Creative Team

Stephen Barlow

United Kingdom

Previously at WFO: Conductor (Koanga, 2015).

Previous Engagements: Conductor (Leonore, Beethoven, Buxton Festival), Conductor (La Fanciulla del West, Puccini, Grange Park Opera), Conductor (La Cenerentola, Rossini, Stuttgart Opera).

Forthcoming Engagements: Conductor (Die Walküre, Richard Wagner, Grange Park Opera), Conductor (Macbeth, Verdi, Buxton Festival), Conductor (Owen Wingrave, Benjamin Britten, Irish Youth Opera).

Fiona Shaw


Previous Engagements: Director (The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart, English National Opera), Director (The Rape of Lucretia, Benjamin Britten, Glyndebourne Festival Opera), Director (Elegy for Young Lovers, Werner Henze, English National Opera).

Forthcoming Engagements: Director (L’Enfance du Christ, Hector Berlioz, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin), Narrator (Orlando, Olga Neuwirth, Wiener Staatsoper).

Set and Costume Designer
Annemarie Woods


Previous Engagements: Designer (L’heure espagnole/Gianni Schicchi, Ravel/Pucchini, Opéra national de Lorraine), Designer (Salome/L’Elisir d’amore/Turn of the Screw, Richard Strauss/Gaetano Donizetti/Benjamin Britten, Northern Ireland Opera), Designer (The Triumph of Time and Truth/The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, Georg Friedrich Handel/Gerald Barry, Handel Festival Karlsruhe).

Lighting Designer
Christopher Akerlind

United States

Previously at WFO: Lighting Designer (Hubička, The Golden Ticket, Virginia, 2010; Herculanum, Vanessa, Maria de Rudenz, 2016).

Previous Engagements: Lighting Designer (Elizabeth Cree, Kevin Puts, Opera Philadelphia), Lighting Designer (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, Santa Fe Opera), Lighting Designer (Indecent, Paul Vogel, Broadway).

Forthcoming Engagements: Lighting Designer (The House Without a Christmas Tree, Ricky Ian Gordon, Houston Grand Opera); Lighting Designer (Alcina, Handel, Washington National Opera).


Lise Davidsen

Soprano, Norway

Previous Engagements: Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss, Glyndebourne Festival Opera), Soloist (Rosenblatt Recital with James Baillieu), Isabella (Das Liebesverbot, Wagner, Teatro Colon).

Forthcoming Engagements: Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss, Wiener Staatsoper), Soloist (Wesendonck Lieder, Wagner, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra), Soloist (Four Last Songs, Strauss, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra).

Ruth Iniesta
Raffaella Lupinacci

Mezzo-soprano, Italy

Previous Engagements: Dorabella (Così fan tutte, Mozart, Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa), Arturo (Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, Donizetti, Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo), Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini, Teatro Comunale di Bologna).

Forthcoming Engagements: Carlotta (Torvaldo e Dorliska, Rossini, Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro), Soloist (Mass, Schubert, Teatro Regio, Torino), Soloist (Gala Rossini, Rossini, Teatro Principal de Mahon, Menorca).

Sergey Romanovsky

Tenor, Russia

Previous Engagements: Aldredo (La Traviata, Verdi, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden), Otello (Otello, Verdi, Teatro San Carlo Napoli), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti, Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse).

Forthcoming Engagements: Rodolfo (La Bohème, Puccini, Dutch National Opera).

King Creon
Adam Lau

Bass, United States

Previous Engagements: Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro, Mozart, Lyric Opera of Kansas City), Mephistopheles (The Damnation of Faust, Berlioz, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic), The Speaker (The Magic Flute, Mozart, Seattle Opera).

Forthcoming Engagements: Soloist (Requiem, Mozart, San Diego Symphony), Soloist (Messiah, Handel, Musica Sacra, Carnegie Hall), Don Basilio (The Barber of Seville, Rossini, Kentucky Opera).