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'Lysistrata, or The Nude Goddess,' by Mark Adamo

The phrase "make love, not war" often conjures memories of the 1960's hippie culture, with its peace symbols and free love. But the sentiment has been around for a lot longer than that.

More than 2000 years ago, the Greek playwright Aristophanes, an Athenian, decided to make a statement on the then-current state of public affairs. At the time, Athens and Sparta had been at war for decades and Aristophanes, it seems, felt that was more than long enough. So he weighed in on the issue with one of his signature, dramatic devices: satire.

In the year 411 B.C., Aristophanes came up with a play headlined by a character named Lysistrata — an Athenian woman who is fed up with constant war and decides to do something about it. Her basic plan is to assemble noble woman from all over Greece, and persuade them to withhold sex from their warrior husbands until the men agree to end the fighting.

Whether the play's message had any effect is hard to say. After it was finished, Aristophanes gave up on political plays for almost twenty years, and the war dragged on. But his Lysistrata did find its way into an early-21st century opera by the American composer Mark Adamo.

Adamo first put himself on the operatic map with his critical and popular hit Little Women, based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott. That one was commissioned by Houston Grand Opera, and was performed there in 1998 and 2000.

Little Women was so successful that before long Houston Grand Opera commissioned another work from Adamo. The result was the composer's hilarious take on the ancient satire by Aristophanes — a new opera called Lysistrata, or The Nude Goddess that also had its world premiere in Houston.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents that world premiere production with an ensemble cast featuring soprano Emily Pulley in the title role, along with tenor Chad Shelton, soprano Laquita Mitchell and mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood, all led by conductor Stefan Lano, from downtown Houston's Wortham Theater Center.

See the previous edition of WORLD OF OPERA or the full archive.

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