Alison Fuehrer

Venus & Adonis: As Told By Shakespeare, Blow & Desmaret

One myth. Three stories. See how William Shakespeare, John Blow, and Henry Desmaret told the story  — very differently — of Venus and Adonis through their poetry and operas. Whether driven by political commentary or personal turmoil, these men’s versions of Ovid’s myth reveal may reveal more about themselves than about their source material.

The Myth: Venus and Adonis

These two lovers’ affair first appeared in book ten of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but the more well-known version of their story actually comes from the Shakespearian poem Venus and Adonis. In Ovid’s original, Venus has fallen in love with Adonis, having been struck accidentally by one of her son Cupid’s arrows. She walks about with him while he hunts in the forest and then she tells him a story. Venus leaves; Adonis goes back to hunting and is tragically killed by a wild boar. Venus in her mourning turns Adonis into the flower Anemone.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’s poem: Venus and Adonis

Shakespeare takes great liberties with these mere 75 lines of Ovid’s poem and turns Adonis into a prudent youth who desires hunting above love (read his poem: Venus and Adonis). This is the Adonis that we usually think of in the myth. He shuns Venus’ aggressive advances and joins the hunt, ignoring her warnings of the dangers of boar hunting. Adonis meets the same end as the original and Venus declares that love will thereafter be attended by sorrows.

JOHN BLOW’s version: English opera from c1683

The version of Venus and Adonis told in John Blow’s opera of the same name brings yet another tweak to Adonis’ character, but this time the change contains a moralizing motivation. This earliest-surviving English opera was performed privately for the court of King Charles II. The special casting under these conditions, combined with the diversions from the original myth, suggest that Blow wrote his Venus and Adonis as a commentary on court culture. Blow’s Adonis is not a resistant adolescent but a frustrated lover teased by Venus, who is played by the King’s former mistress. At the sound of the call to hunt, Venus urges Adonis to go, knowing absence from her will kindle new desire. Adonis on the other hand vows never to leave her, yet is unable to resist the challenge when the huntsmen burst in describing the boar. Any question of which role represents the King is done away with when you consider that Cupid, Venus’ son, is played by his illegitimate daughter Lady Mary Tudor. Thus Blow’s impetuous versions of Venus and Adonis, become a metaphor for loose sexual mores of the King’s court and a satire on their heedless behavior.

HENRY DESMARET’s version: Vénus and Adonis

Desmaret’s tale of Venus and Adonis from 1697 is radically different than Blow’s earlier opera and from Ovid’s original. The only consistencies are Venus’ love for the irresistible Adonis and his tragic death by a wild boar.

In this version, Venus has come down to declare Adonis king of Cyprus. She confesses her love for Adonis to Cidippe, a new character, who is also secretly in love with Adonis. Desmaret also brings in the figure of Venus’ other lover, Mars. Mars learns through Cidippe of Venus’ new lover, and together the jealous Cidippe and Mars plan their revenge on the couple. After various other schemes, Mars solicits Diana’s help in punishing Adonis. She unleashes a wild boar that wrecks havoc on the people of Cyprus. As the new King, Adonis sets out to slay the monster and save his people. He is victorious, but Diana brings the beast back to life and Adonis is killed.

Desmaret composed Vénus et Adonis in the middle of his own dramatic love affair, one with the teenage daughter of a high official that resulted in his exile to Brussels. It has been suggested that some of the emotion of the drama in Desmaret’s life can be felt in the emotion of the composition.


Great Concert Halls of the World

From Argentina to France to Romania, here are some of the most remarkable concert halls around the world. Which halls would you add to this list?

Palau de Música Catalan

Palau de Música Catalan in Barcelona, Spain

Concert Hall: Palau de Música Catalan in Barcelona, Spain
What Makes It Unique: The Palau de Música is the only hall in Europe illuminated entirely by natural light in the daytime. Look up and you’ll see how it’s done—a magnificent inverted dome of blue and gold stained glass.
Significant Performances: Manual de Falla’s Concerto for Harpshicord and Five Instruments was performed for the first time in this venue.


Konzerthaus Berlin

Konzerthaus Berlin, Berlin Germany

Concert Hall: Konzerthaus Berlin, Berlin Germany
What Makes It Special: The Konzerhaus takes center stage in Gedarmenmarkt Square, where stands between the German Cathedral and the French Cathedral.  Its neoclassical architecture is only enhanced by the symmetry of the square as a whole.
Significant Performances: Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 9 premiered in this Konzerthaus.


Teatro Alla Scala

Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, Italy

Concert Hall: Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, Italy
What Makes It Unique: No list of world-famous concert halls would be complete without world-famous Teatro Alla Scala, constructed in 1778. La Scala was originally lit with thousands of oil lamps. To avoid fire, several rooms were kept full of water buckets. La Scala has thankfully upgraded to electricity since then, but its fame has continued unchanged since its construction.
Significant Performances: La Scala’s list of premieres is packed with well known’s, including Verdi’s Falstaff and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly


El Teatro Colón i

El Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Concert Hall: El Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina
What Makes It Special: El Teatro Colón went through three architects during its construction—one having passed away and another murdered before its completion. Despite these initial complications, the theater is considered acoustically one of the five best concert venues in the world, providing a perfect listening experience even on the seventh floor.
Significant Performances: After a $100-millon five-year renovation, El Teatro reopened in 2010 with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Puccini’s La Bohème.


Mariinsky Theater

Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Concert Hall: Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg, Russia
What Makes It Unique: The Mariinsky Theater has served as the principal venue of the Imperial Opera since the second half of the 19th century. The state recently completed the construction of a second facility. Located across the way, Mariinsky II is designed to integrate contemporary works with the Mariinsky’s rich tradition of classical Russian ballet and opera.
Significant Performances: Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, and Marius Petipa choreography of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker all premiered here.


Wiener Musikverein in Vienna, Austria

Wiener Musikverein in Vienna, Austria

Concert Hall: Wiener Musikverein in Vienna, Austria
What Makes It Unique: The Musikverein’s Großersaal, or main concert hall, is said to bring architecture and ornamentation together so well, that it not only enhances the music, it is music itself. Notice the rhythm of color and form on the ceiling and walls.
Significant Performances:  Among the Musikverein’s line of concert directors are Ferdinand Löwe, Hans Richter, and Johannes Brahms.


Romanian Athenaeum

The Romanian Athenaeum, in Bucharest, Romania

Concert Hall: The Romanian Athenaeum, in Bucharest, Romania
What Makes It Unique: Erected as a building dedicated to the arts and sciences, the Athenaeum is considered the symbol of Romanian culture. Its connection to its people can be seen not only in the monumental fresco that commemorates the history of Romania, but in the fact that its construction was funded largely by public donations!
Significant Performances: Romanian composer George Enescu conducted the premiere of his enthusiastically acclaimed “Romanian Poem” here on March 1st, 1898.



Palais Garnier i

Palais Garnier in Paris, France

Concert Hall: Palais Garnier in Paris, France
What Makes It Unique: The opulently decorated Palais Garnier is easily one of the most well known operas, often referred to as simply, the Opéra. The building itself puts on a performance—you’ll encounter spectacles of the foyers, rotunda, and the famous grand staircase before even reaching the auditorium.
Significant Performances: Verdi’s Otello was first seen in France here in 1894. The Palais also hosted the 1000th performance of Goethe’s Faust that same year.