| by Jason Warburg

La Cleopatra program

Professor Joe McClinton has been a self-described “opera geek” since he was a freshman in high school checking opera recordings out of his local library in Penn­sylvania. In the intervening years, he mastered German, Italian, and French and even had aspirations at one point to become a conductor. Still, when the opportunity came years later to join forces with Celiné Ricci, the indefatigable founder and artistic director of Ars Minerva, to help translate a long-lost opera from the early years of the tradition in Venice, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Ricci wanted to rescue Dan­iele da Castrovillari’s La Cleopa­tra from the archives of Venice’s Biblioteca Marciana, where it had been gathering dust since its pre­miere in 1662. The printed libret­to and the score are two different documents and, as Joe would later realize, contain fairly substantial differences.

Joe began by translating the 350-year-old libretto from Ba­roque Italian into English to help the performers better understand the very complicated plot. The next stage involved fine tuning the translation for a modern audience, which involved significant rephrasing to add lyricism and emotion.

Joe sat in on rehearsals to be sure his translation would match what was hap­pening on the stage. He laughs when he describes the storyline, which is consid­erably more complicated than the tradi­tional Anthony and Cleopatra story, and includes other love triangles as well as the escapades of a lecherous nurse and a hap­less would-be assassin.

The first modern production of the op­era in San Francisco this spring received rave reviews from sold-out audiences and hard-to-please critics. In the early years of Venetian opera, performances were like social gatherings connected to the annual carnival, and revivals were rare. That leaves Ars Minerva with a wealth of old operas in need of resuscitating, and Joe is looking forward to the possibility of more operatic adventures ahead.

For More Information

Eva Gudbergsdottir