Purcell and Mozart opera double bill — 2 and 4 September 2010

Bastien and Bastienne, by W.A. Mozart

Cast and credits

Composed by:Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1768
Libretto:English performance text prepared by Colin Forbes, 2010.
German libretto by Friedrich Wilhelm Weiskern, 1764, later revised by Andreas Schachtner and based on Les Amours de Bastien et Bastienne by Marie-Justine-Benoîte Favart, Charles-Simon Favart and Harny de Guerville, 1753, which in turn which was a parody of Le Devin du village by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1752.

Bastien:Charles Hudson
Bastienne:Rosemary Lohmann
Colas:Chris McNee

Directors:Colin Forbes and Patricia Whitbread
Keyboard:Colin Forbes
Stage & Production Manager:Leighton Mann, assisted by Adam Krusec

The opera

Bastien and Bastienne was composed by Mozart at the age of twelve, during his family's year-long sojourn in Vienna in 1768.

Dr. Anton Mesmer (from whom the word 'mesmerise' comes) a family friend, commissioned the young Mozart to compose a one-act piece based on Weiskern's translation of a French parody of a work by Rousseau. (Mozart later parodied the "magnetic doctor" himself in Così fan tutte. Andreas Schachtner, court trumpeter in Salzburg, also a friend of the Mozart family, made a further revision but most of that extra work is now lost.

An 1828 biography of Mozart says that the first performance was in 1768 in the Mesmer's garden. However the earliest documented performance was not until 2 October 1890, in Berlin.

The opera is a singspiel —songs interspersed with spoken dialogue—a form that Mozart would develop in The Abduction from the Seraglio and The Magic Flute.

The opera's plot has a convoluted history, beginning with Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 1752 intermède Le Devin du village.

The text used for CAMRA's performance is an English performance version prepared by our musical director, Colin Forbes.

Much of the music is characterized by relatively simple melodies, rhythms, harmonies and textures, similar to the styles of opera comique and German song. But Colas's incantation aria and Bastien and Bastienne 's reconciliation duet hint of Mozart's later operatic greatness. In Colas's aria, Mozart draws on Italian opera seria mannerisms for a mock-heroic effect. Dramatically swirling notes set the scene and Colas intones the incantation with a slow, nearly monotonic melody. Rhythmic variety and playfulness gradually increase as it becomes clear that this is a spoof of arias about supernatural forces. In Bastien and Bastienne 's duet, Mozart moves the dramatic action along through a series of short connected sections of shifting rhythmic and melodic patterns as each lover brings a new point into the argument—the possibility of other lovers, remembrance of past happiness, suicidal remorse.

The story

Bastienne, a shepherdess, fears that her "dearest friend," Bastien, has forsaken her for another, and decides to go into the pasture to be comforted by her flock of lambs.

Colas, the village soothsayer, interrupts her departure. Bastienne asks him to use his magic arts to help solve her problem. Colas reassures her that Bastien is not being unfaithful: his head has been but temporarily turned by "the lady of the manor." Colas advises Bastienne to feign indifference; if she does that, Bastien will return.

They hear Bastien approaching, so Bastienne hides. Bastien enters, loudly declaring his love for Bastienne. Colas stops him cold with the news that he's too late: Bastienne has found another lover. Bastien is dumbfounded. How can he win her back?

Colas consults his book of magic and finds a nonsense spell, assuring Bastien that the spell has taken effect and all his problems are solved.

Joyfully, Bastien searches for Bastienne. But Bastienne plays her part of the spurned lover to the hilt; so well that Bastien threatens to return to the lady in the manor.

Bastienne retorts that she herself can easily find admirers in the town. Bastien hints at suicide. "Have a good time!" she responds. He threatens to drown himself. "Enjoy your cold bath!" But here he hesitates, admitting that he's a bad swimmer.

The lovers' tiff plays itself out. Reconciled, they are joined by Colas and the three sing the magician's praises in a final chorus.

The performers

Colin Forbes (Co-director and Producer, Keyboard)

A graduate of Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Colin was Lecturer in Piano at the Conservatorium as well as pianist and percussionist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He later joined the Australian Opera as a repetiteur and has worked with other leading concert organisations. Colin studied piano with Paul Badura-Skoda at the Essen Hochschule and taught and performed in Germany. He was then Head of Keyboard at Ascham School and, from 1992, repetiteur at the Canberra School of Music. In 1997 he helped establish CAMRA, where he is Artistic Director and principal piano teacher. Colin has given many concerts in Canberra as soloist and accompanist. Under CAMRA's auspices, Colin has prepared productions of several Gilbert and Sullivan operas, The Beggar's Opera, Ordo Virtutum by Hildegard von Bingen, and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, as well as numerous orchestral masses, Handel's Messiah and Bach's St John Passion.

Charles Hudson (Bastien)

Charles recently moved from Brisbane, after occupying the position of cantor at St Thomas Aquinas Church, St Lucia. In 2010, he was a principal in the popular "Opera by Candlelight" concerts in Commonwealth Park, Canberra, performing excerpts from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi's La Traviata, and Bizet's Le Pecheurs de Perles. Charles has worked most recently with James Christianson OAM, Martha Meszaros, Susan Ellis, Megan Evans OAM, and John Bolton-Wood AM. In between rehearsals he can often be found playing the trumpet, guitar, piano or didgeridoo.

Rosemary Lohmann (Bastienne)

Rosemary is taught by Andrea Orwin and Colin Forbes. Always a lover of singing and dancing, she recalls dancing as a tube of pimple cream and miming a teapot. She has sung Lady Larkin in Once Upon a Mattress, Elsie Maynard in Yeomen of the Guard, Constance in Sorcerer, Modesty in Ordo Virtutum, arias in Messiah and St John Passion, in CAMRA's Month of Sundays concerts and with the Melbourne Opera chorus. Rosemary's current challenge is to help her singing students develop their own love of singing.

Chris McNee (Colas)

Chris started singing with David Reedy when he was fourteen. Since then he has performed in many shows including Trial by Jury, Oliver, Yeomen of the Guard and Melbourne Opera's The Barber of Seville. Chris has also been learning from Colin Forbes and has performed in many of Colin's concerts and recitals—most recently with a collection of African-American spirituals for The Month of Sundays concerts.

Patricia Whitbread (Co-Director and Producer)

Patricia was a student of Alice Mallon-Muir in Perth from the age of nineteen. Successful in many competitions, Patricia performed principal roles with the Western Australian Opera Company and Victorian State Opera. She was a trainee principal with Opera Australia in 1975 and 1976, and studied in Germany with an Opera Foundation Scholarship in 1977. From 1978-1980, she was a principal singer with Opera Australia, and returned to Germany to perform and teach from 1980 to 1984. Patricia has since taught and performed extensively in Sydney and Canberra and has been President of the ACT Chapter of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing. Her wealth of vocal and stage experience is seen in many of CAMRA's productions.