Leslie Katter
Leslie Katter appears in the title role of Ars Minerva’s Olimpia Vendicata | Credit: Valentina Sadiul

Céline Ricci’s Ars Minerva is presenting yet another revival of a long-neglected Baroque opera: this time, Domenico Freschi’s 1682 Olimpia Vendicata (Olympia avenged).

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the San Francisco-based Ars Minerva has previously produced seven unique revivals, many to rave reviews, of works generally forgotten, often along with their composers.

They were La Cleopatra by Daniele da Castrovillari, The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles by Carlo Pallavicino, La Circe by Pietro Andrea Ziani, Ifigenia in Aulide by Giovanni Porta, Ermelinda by Freschi, Messalina by Pallavicino, and Astianatte by Leonardo Vinci (not Leonardo da Vinci, who did everything except compose operas).

Olimpia Vendicata will be performed Oct. 20–22 at ODC Theater. Tickets, starting at $27 for students, are available online or from the ODC Theater box office.

The palace in Ars Minerva’s production of Olimpia Vendicata | Image by Entropy

Based on a story from Ludovico Ariosto’s sprawling chivalric epic Orlando Furioso, Freschi’s Olimpia Vendicata tells the tale of the princess of Holland who, abandoned by her faithless lover Bireno, falls captive to a band of pirates before becoming a slave at the court of Hibernia (Ireland). Among the erotic intrigues which follow is the return of Bireno in mad pursuit of the Hibernian princess Alinda. To say more would be a spoiler.

“After Ermelinda, this is the second opera by Domenico Freschi that Ars Minerva has chosen for a modern world premiere,” says Ricci. “Though not as widely recognized as some of his contemporaries, Freschi wrote music that is both witty and affecting and that stands as a testament to the richness and diversity of the Baroque era. We are proud to shine a spotlight on this underrated composer as well as the librettist Aurelio Aureli.

“We are also proud to mark our 10th year. Looking ahead, we plan to continue rediscovering forgotten treasures from the Italian Baroque, while collaborating with our amazing artists and fostering new talent.”

Nina Jones and Sidney Ragland
Nina Jones (left) as Bireno and Sidney Ragland as Niso in a rehearsal for Olimpia Vendicata | Credit: Céline Ricci

The cast of Olimpia Vendicata includes soprano Leslie Katter (Olimpia), mezzo-soprano Nina Jones (Bireno), mezzo-soprano Deborah Rosengaus (Oberto), soprano Aura Veruni (Alinda), contralto Sara Couden (Osmiro), tenor Sidney Ragland (Niso), and baritone Nicolas Garcia (Araspe).

Ricci is stage and music director, and harpsichordist Matthew Dirst conducts. Ars Minerva’s period-instrument orchestra includes Cynthia Keiko Black (concertmaster), Gretchen Claassen (cello), Richard Savino (theorbo), and Steven Lehning (bass).

The creative team includes Del Medoff (lighting designer), Entropy (projections designer), Marina Polakoff (costume designer), and Daniel Cartagena (makeup artist). Adam Cockerham transcribed the score, and Joe McClinton translated the text for the supertitles.

Ars Minerva receives funding from the Sam Mazza Foundation and InterMusic SF.