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Venus and Adonis 2000

July 29 - August 11, 2000

The eternal triangle…

Rivalry on the field of love has inspired poets since the dawn of time – at least since Venus’ yearning for young Adonis stirred Mars’ jealous passion. Henze evokes the timeless clash of emotions between three lovers using figures culled from myth. He entwines them with singers and dancers as their stage counterparts. The romance may be doomed, but how sweet its bloom.

Music By
John Blow
Libretto By
Aphra Behn or Anne Kingsmill


Act I

1: Madrigal I. Dawn is breaking. Shepherds in their olive tree, the chorus of madrigalists, set the scene, and describe the sunlight bringing the landscape to life.

2: Recitative I. While the dancers taking the parts of Venus and Mars lie lifeless about them like puppets, the singers preparing those roles, the Prima Donna and the Hero-Player, discuss their dreams of the previous night and how they should interpret them. The Hero-Player proclaims his love for the Prima Donna, but she resists; her dream of a green dragon with sharp claws and a long red tongue seems an ill omen.

3: Bolero I Dance-Song. The Venus and Mars dancers now awaken; she reveals her love for Adonis, while he is filled with jealousy and rage. Adonis appears, leading the singer, Clemente, who joins the others at the front of the stage. In the trio’s Dance-Song each expresses the thoughts of the character he or she is playing, reading from their leather-bound scores.

4: Madrigal II. Dancers and singers have left the stage to the shepherds, who sing of Adonis’ love, fearlessness and vanity.

5: Bolero II and Dance Song. While Adonis and Mars enact scenes of hunting and war, Clemente and the Hero-Player, reading from their scores, discuss cowardice and bravery. As Mars, the Hero-Player promises to forge a set of golden armor for Adonis; they will be victorious or fall together. Adonis is suddenly overcome with his fears of the future. Mars leaves, and Venus and the Prima Donna return; Venus attempts to embrace Adonis but is rejected and falls to the ground. Simultaneously, the Prima Donna makes advances to Clemente; those too are repulsed, and the Prima Donna collapses at the front of the stage.

6: Recitative II. The Prima Donna returns to the subject of her dreams — the dragon — and imagines making a warrior, or perhaps a singer of him, ‘a real man.’

7: Bolero III and Dance-Song. Venus revives, and her dance expresses the frustration of her unrequited love for Adonis, while the Prima Donna, reading from her score, sings of his innocence and cruelty towards her.

8: Recitative III. The Hero-Player attempts once more to broach the subject of his love for the Prima Donna; their dialogue reaches an impasse.

9: Bolero IV and Dance-Song. Venus and Mars mirror the argument between the Hero-Player and the Prima Donna; she tells of Venus’ love for Adonis, he of Mars’ increasingly jealous passion for her.

10: Madrigal III. As the shepherds sing of nature responding to the elements, Adonis and Clemente enter separately; Adonis is leading a stallion.

11: Pantomime and Recitative IV. Adonis sits dreaming of Venus; his cool indifference gradually turns to passion and he begins to dance, while Clemente begins to realize the attractions of the Prima Donna.

12: Bolero V and Dance-Song. Clemente sings from his score of Adonis’ inability to resist Venus’ beauty. Adonis meanwhile falls asleep in the midday heat.

13: Madrigal IV. The Shepherds paint a picture of the lassitude that comes over the countryside at noon.

14: Bolero VI and Dance-Song. A mare appears; the stallion scents her, breaks free of his tethers and sets off in pursuit. The sleeping Adonis is awoken by the commotion and goes in search of his animal; the two horses have found each other and go off together. The madrigalists provide a commentary on the chase. Adonis is exhausted by his efforts and at the point of collapse when Mars carries him away.

15: Recitative V. The Hero-Player and Clemente have watched this scene. The Hero-Player tells Clemente that he has not fallen in love, merely fallen into Venus’ trap. The young tenor protests, and accuses the Hero-Player of jealousy; furious, the older singer goes to strike Clemente, who leaves the Hero-Player to wallow in his self-pity.

16: Bolero VII and Dance-Song. Venus finds Adonis sleeping. She embraces him and he at last responds. As the sky darkens the Prima Donna and Clemente enter, and from their texts sing a love duet for Venus and Adonis, while their own relationship grows more and more intense. The Hero-Player enters and watches the scene from a distance; as Clemente and the Prima Donna kiss for the first time he rushes forward and stabs Clemente. At the same moment there is a flash of lightning; a wild boar appears and fatally wounds Adonis.

17: Lament for the Dead and Epilogue. The Prima Donna’s anguished lament, and the Hero-Player’s outpourings of remorse, are intertwined with the shepherds’ farewell for Adonis. Venus is seen hugging the lifeless body of her lover. The scene changes and the shepherds climb down from their tree to cluster around Adonis; he has become a star among the stars, and is lonely no more.

Andrew Clements


Lauren Flanigan headshot

Lauren Flanigan


Prima Donna (Venus)

Stephen West headshot

Stephen West


The Hero-Player (Mars)

John Daszak headshot

John Daszak


Clemente (Adonis)

Melanie Sarakatsannis headshot

Melanie Sarakatsannis



Victoria Weil headshot

Victoria Weil



Jennifer Powell headshot

Jennifer Powell



Santa Fe Opera

Michael Ryan



Santa Fe Opera

Brad Alexander



Greg Vorst headshot

Greg Vorst



Sarita Allen headshot

Sarita Allen


Dancer (Venus)

Brock von Drehle Labrenz headshot

Brock von Drehle Labrenz


Dancer (Adonis)

Peter Mantia headshot

Peter Mantia


Dancer (Mars)

Robert McFarland headshot

Robert McFarland


Dancer (The Stallion)

Amy West headshot

Amy West


Dancer (The Mare)

Homer Avila headshot

Homer Avila


Dancer (The Boar)

Richard Bradshaw headshot

Richard Bradshaw


Alfred Kirchner headshot

Alfred Kirchner


John Conklin headshot

John Conklin

Scenic Designer

David C. Woolard headshot

David C. Woolard

Costume Designer

Jennifer Tipton headshot

Jennifer Tipton

Lighting Designer

Ron Thorhill headshot

Ron Thornhill