Love in a time of apocalypse: Shepherd School Opera to perform Cavalli’s ‘La Calisto’

Francesco Cavalli’s exploration of impossible love and post-war apocalypse, “La Calisto,” will be presented by Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music’s Opera Department and Chamber Orchestra as the first production under the opera studies program’s new director.

La Calisto graphic.Performances are scheduled for Oct. 31 and Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. at the Wortham Theatre at the Shepherd School.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to begin my tenure at the Shepherd School with this magical piece,” said Michael Heaston, director of Rice’s Opera Studies Program. “Though this piece is nearly 400 years old and is based on a Greco-Roman myth, “La Calisto” is an opera that speaks fervently to a 21st-century audience.”

At the center of the opera lies the nymph Calisto, a follower of the virgin goddess Diana, who has caught the eye of Jupiter, the most powerful of gods. Initially rebuffed by Calisto, Jupiter turns to his most brilliant disguise yet: dressing up as Diana and seducing Calisto with the promise of chaste kisses. Diana herself, however, is also struggling with her vows of chastity, having recently fallen in love with a young astronomer and poet, Endimione.

The plot thickens with the addition of several demigods and satyrs, whose leader, Pan, is inconsolably in love with Diana — though he’s unaware whether it’s the real Diana or “Jupiter as Diana” he’s courting. Things finally come to a head when Juno, Jupiter’s wife, descends to earth in order to figure out what her husband is up to and exacts her revenge on the deceived Calisto.

These sometimes tragic, sometimes hilarious plot twists are set against a bleak, arid world. In the heat of battle, Jupiter showered the world with thunderbolts, destroying all natural life.

“As these characters grapple with the horrendous destruction of war, it is love, both literally and figuratively, that restores beauty to their universe and allows everything around them to bloom once again,” Paul said.

Guest conductor Gary Thor Wedow will conduct the orchestra. The opera will be staged by David Paul, guest stage director, and sung in Italian with English surtitles. Set design is by Liz Freese, costumes by Sara Jean Tosetti and lighting design by Gary Echelmeyer.

“La Calisto” contains content of a sexual nature and is intended for adult audiences.

To purchase tickets, which are $12 for the general public and $10 for students and senior citizens, call the Shepherd School Concert Office at 713-348-8000.

Shepherd Society members are invited to a lecture prior to the Oct. 31 performance. For more information on how to become a Shepherd Society member, call 713-348-3492 or visit

For more information on Rice’s Opera Department, visit

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.