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Ars Musica Chicago 

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In 1701 Tomas de Torrejon y Velasco's La purpura de la rosa premiered at the Spanish viceroy's court in Lima, Peru. Commissioned to celebrate the 18th birthday of King Philip V (grandson of Franci's Louis XIV), it was the first opera ever composed and staged in the Americas. As befitted such an occasion, the opera dealt with the noble and joyous love between Venus and Adonis, and its tender melodious music shows unmistakable influences of the Venetian masters Cavalli and Monteverdi. Its libretto borrowed heavily from one written by Pedro Calderon for a zarzuela in Madrid, where, it's believed, Torrejon spent some time before sailing for Peru in 1667 at age 23. Torrejon was in charge of choral music at the cathedral in Lima for much of his career, a qualification that probably led to the commission of his only opera. The original cast was most likely multicultural--another first--staffed with Spanish, Indian, and African performers from the cathedral and various theaters. For this first local revival by Ars Musica Chicago (nee American Medieval Players) director Andrew Schultze has compiled a new performance edition of the opera using manuscripts from archives in Lima. He's also fielded a fine ensemble of young singers and early-music specialists. The cast of 25 includes Jo Rodenburg (as Venus), Krista Depenthal (as Adonis), and baritone Schultze himself (as Mars). Many of the instrumentalists, under the direction of Stephen Blackwelder, are members of Kevin Mason's well-regarded Orpheus Band. This rare presentation promises to be a highlight in this weekend's conference, cosponsored by Rosary College, on "Human Rights and the Quincentenary." Tonight, 8 PM, Lund Auditorium, Rosary College, 7900 W. Division, River Forest; 708-524-6454.

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