"Cardano was magnificent and eccentric mind - a prolific inventor and flawed father, solitary, aggressive, peculiar. A man who would listen to a guardian angel, swear by science, and dream of defeating time. He wrote the first texts on the mathematics of gambling, was a world-renowned surgeon, invented algebra, and was a pioneer of sign language."
It is Gerolamo Cardano (1501 - 1576) ~ a renaissance Renaissance man, philosopher, inventor and physician surgeon, and member of the Royal College to boot ~ who Sydney Chamber Opera, in association with Ensemble Offspring, brings to light with their marvellous first work of the year. I thought it a stunning piece of theatre. Like (say) Mayakovsky, Russia's everyman's poet and revolutionary, they find these great figures of great import to bring into our focus. I love it.
Wiki details on Cardano here.
Enligthenment was a century or so away, and Cardano's world was that of Divine Order, the stars the supposed manifestation of His Brilliance. Little did they know what chaos is out there, disguised behind the mask of zillions of light years as dazzling rhythms and harmony. (By the way, for a marvellous read looking into the ring with Reason vs Faith having a round or two, try James Gaines if you haven't already.)
Anyway, little consolation to be found anywhere for Gerolamo, though he did sort out the Archbishop's near death from uncleanliness. As the programme notes point out, the search for knowledge helped little in the gaining of wisdom, as each of the twelve scenes presented underline. Like 'pictures in a gallery' we assemble some concept of this distracted mind, and perhaps a better concept of time, decisions plucked from some great data base onto which we continually stumble in a pseudo-linear framework.
Mr McCallum plays good tribute to each player here. Significantly, Mitchell Butel's Cardano was delineated by being solely for spoken word which put tremendous pressure on the voice (not subtitled) to deliver the kind of emotional impact the vocal (subtitled) scoring could. Or rather, the other way around - it highlighted why we sing.
(call - Jack Symonds centre, acknowledging the orchestra)
Packed house and much acclamation and enthusiasm.
So off we went, happy little vegemites into the hot summer's night only just descending. I wore shorts!
(and I wasn't the only one)