Grand Théâtre de Genève presents Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, directed by FC Bergman and starring Mark Padmore and Sara Mingardo

27 February – 7 March 2023

After guest productions of L’Orfeo and L’incoronazione di Poppea with Iván Fischer, the Grand Théâtre de Genève (GTG) closes its Monteverdi triptych with a new house production of Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, led by the unbridled imagination of Flemish collective FC Bergman, freshly crowned with a Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale. British tenor Mark Padmore stars in the title role, with Sara Mingardo as Pénélope and Jorge Navarro Colorado as Télémaque.

Taken from the second half of Homer’s OdysseyIl ritorno d’Ulisse in patria follows the King of Ithaca on his return from Troy, where a trio of malevolent suitors are pestering his faithful wife, Pénélope and he faces his ultimate challenge: to make constancy and virtue triumph over treachery and deceit. After productions of L’Orfeo (19/20 season) and L’incoronazione di Poppea (21/22 season), Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria completes the cycle of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas at GTG and is perhaps the less well-known of his operas. The composer’s hallmark is nonetheless recognizable in the variety of his musical styles: the fashionable forms of the arioso, duets and ensembles rub shoulders with the declamatory recitatives of the seconda prattica developed in L’Orfeo. With rare eloquence, he develops the characters, feelings and emotions of the many characters, divine and human, to create the most tender and moving part of the triptych.

British tenor and renowned interpreter of Baroque music Mark Padmore performs the title role, and Sara Mingardo takes on the role of Pénélope, returning to GTG after her unforgettable performance as Neris of Médée in 2015. Jorge Navarro Colorado also joins the cast as Télémaque, and Julieth Lozano joins as L’Amour / Mélantho. After an in-depth rereading of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail in the 19/20 season, the great Baroque conductor Fabio Biondi returns to GTG, this time supported by his Europa Galante ensemble.

The production is directed by award-winning collective FC Bergman. Founded in 2008, FC Bergman quickly made a name for itself with its anarchistic, slightly chaotic, but highly evocative and poetic theatrical language. A learned and young collective, they tell stories through an ingenious interweaving of film and theatre, acting and stunning stage design which mixes, according to a recent review, “the mystical naturalism of Romeo Castellucci, the melancholy absurdism of Christoph Marthaler and the dancing dynamics of Pina Bausch”. During their first escapade to the opera in 2018 with Les Pêcheurs de pearls, FC Bergman marked success in Antwerp, Ghent, Luxembourg and Lille, and more recently in the theatre with The Sheep Song given at the Festival d’Avignon, the Holland Festival in Amsterdam and at the Comédie de Genève.

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria opens at Grand Théâtre de Genève on Monday 27 February; tickets are available on their website.