Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764): Castor and Pollux
Christian Curnyn, conductor
Director: Barrie Kosky
Designer: Katrin Lea Tag
Lighting Designer: Franck Evin
Translator: Amanda Holden
Telaïre: Sophie Bevan
Phoebe: Laura Tatulescu
Castor: Allan Clayton
Pollux: Roderick Williams
Jupiter: Henry Waddington
High Priest of Jupiter: Andrew Rupp
Mercury/Athlete: Ed Lyon
A co-production with Komische Opera, Berlin
First seen in 1737 but extensively revised in 1754, Castor and Pollux was considered Rameau’s masterpiece during his lifetime and survived longer in the repertoire than any of his other works.
Jean-Philippe Rameau's Castor and Pollux offers a different take on the theme of visiting the underworld to recover a lost soul – a myth stretching all the way from the familiar Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.
In this case the Spartan twins Castor and Pollux – both sons of Jupiter and heroes in battle – have the unfortunate distinction that the former is mortal and the latter is immortal: and both are in love with the mortal princess Telaira; as ill-luck – or fate – would have it, she loves only Castor, who dies in battle. Telaira calls on Pollux to intercede with his father and bring Castor back to life; Pollux reluctantly agrees, but Jupiter cannot override the laws of nature – Castor can return from the dead only if Pollux takes his place. Pollux shakes off Telaira's friend Phoebe, who loves him and tries to stop him, and battles the demons guarding Hades; there he meets Castor, who vows to return to Sparta only for one day.
On seeing Castor, Phoebe – imagining her hopes are dashed for ever – kills herself; and Telaira, learning of Castor's pledge, accuses him of never having loved her. Jupiter arrives as a deus ex machina to resolve the problem by granting immortality to both twins, who enter the heavens as the constellation of Gemini. The women's fate is a bitter one...
All ancient legends agree that Castor and Pollux were the twin sons of Leda, but not all agree as to their paternity. Some say they were the offspring of her husband Tyndareus, some that they were the progeny of the god Jupiter, who famously coupled with Leda disguised as a swan. Others maintain that Leda gave birth to two eggs, one containing Castor and Clytemnestra (wife of Agamemnon), the other Pollux and Helen (of Troy). According to this version, followed by Rameau, Pollux was immortal but Castor was not. Either way, Jupiter eventually rewarded them for their brotherly devotion by placing them in the Zodiac as the constellation Gemini.
English National Opera Website
Detailed schedule information: