The recording is available for download exclusively on Magnatune.com.
The two-character, one-act drama, with a libretto by Gene Scheer, was commissioned by Philharmonia Baroque to celebrate its 25th anniversary; the piece had its world premiere performances last November in the San Francisco Bay area.
The plot of To Hell and Back is based on the Greco-Roman myth of Persephone, the goddess of spring, who was abducted to the underworld by the god Pluto and must spend half the year (the winter) with him there. Scheer has based his text on the the story as told in Ovid's Metamorphoses. In a note for the Philharmonia Baroque program book, Heggie writes:
"Gene formulated a modern tale of two women, Stephanie and Anne. He read the many versions of the Persephone myth and then read modern stories of spousal abuse ... This is a story of gods and mortals — the ones within each of us. Stephanie (Persephone) is a young woman who has survived a violently abusive marriage to Peter (Pluto), thanks to a heroic act by her mother-in-law, Anne (Cyanne). Both are from a very small town in Appalachia. Stephanie has written her story as part of her rehab in Arizona, and calls to see if Anne has received a copy. Anne is her hero, but she is still back in Appalachia living with the fact that it was her own son, Peter, who married Stephanie and nearly beat her to death."
LuPone, Bayrakdarian and the PBO reunite next week for two performances of To Hell and Back at the Ravinia Festival near Chicago on June 5 and 6.
About the opera and the recording, PBO executive director Robert Birman said in a statement, "While focused on re-creating great music of the past, PBO wants to remain at the forefront of artistic enterprise in America. Our new Internet distribution plan keeps us there."
For more information about the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, visit www.philharmonia.org.