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Jonathan Sells and Solomon's Knot - L'Ospedale at Wilton's Music Hall

Here's what Jonathan Sells has to say about his latest project with his ensemble Solomon's Knot:

"October and November have been dominated for me by the preparation of Solomon’s Knot baroque collective’s first opera production, the world modern premiere of l’Ospedale, a short ‘dramma burlesco’ about healthcare, doctors, and what it means to be sick.  The production opens at Wilton’s Music Hall in London on 10th November, and runs until 21st November.

Very little is known about the piece.  The score was found in the Marciana library in Venice, and though there are plenty of ospedali there, there is no conclusive proof of venetian provenance.  We don’t even know who wrote the music – only the librettist is known: Antonio Abati was a well-known poet with connections to the Habsburg court.  The best guess we can make as to when the opera was written, based on its musical style, is 1640-1660.

The only concrete material we have is what we can see in the score and libretto.  And that is truly astonishing: here is a mini ‘opera’ like no other.  Highly literary, full of witty word play, the piece also tackles tricky social questions that are just as pressing today as they were 350 years ago.  There are four patients: Innamorato (Rebecca Moon, a lover with a ‘pain in the heart’), Cortigiano (Thomas Herford, a courtier with a ‘pain in the chest’), Matto (Michal Czerniawski, a madman with a ‘pain in the head’), and Povero (Nicholas Merryweather, a pauper with a ‘pain in the wallet’), a doctor (the Medico, yours truly) with questionable motives, and a foreigner (Forestiero, Lucy Page) who warns the patients against doctors at the start of the piece.  Each patient is diagnosed in turn, until the atmosphere turns against the doctor and he is finally ejected.  The final point made by the piece is that, of all maladies, “the curse of the purse is the worse”.

The music of the opera is equally surprising.  As well as extended strophic arias that are reminiscent of Cavalli, there are a large number of ensemble moments, mainly as the patients comment on and echo what is happening.  This mixture of madrigal comedy and lyrical style is striking, and keeps the lighter side of this ‘dramma burlesco’ ticking along.  James Halliday is musical director, James Hurley directs.  I know I often say this about Solomon’s Knot projects, but this really is something unique that should not be missed!"

Posted on November 10th 2015