Opéra de Paris: Médée

A Part of the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series

Above: Production photo from Médée Credit: EBU/Elisa Haberer

For cast lists and playlists, please visit the Opera Series Overview.

The opulent Palais Garnier in Paris is the location of our next broadcast, where we hear Médée by 18th-century composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. This opera delves into the dark and tragic tale of Médée, portrayed by Lea Desandre, who uses her sorceress powers in vengeful acts against her unfaithful lover, Jason, played by Reinoud Van Mechelen. Conducted by William Christie, this production from Opéra de Paris offers a riveting exploration of love, betrayal, and revenge, weaving a powerful emotional tapestry that is both captivating and heart-wrenching. Director David McVicar transposes the action to the Second World War, thus reinforcing the heroine’s tragic character.

Possibly mythology’s most unfathomable character: Médée, the sorceress, betrayed by her husband Jason, takes revenge by offering the latter’s lover a poisoned dress and then killing her own children. Such a destiny, so often portrayed in the arts, could not but be embodied at the Opera.


In order to regain his stolen throne and birthright, Jason has sailed to Colchos in the Argo to retrieve the Golden Fleece from its sacred shrine. The Colchon princess (and sorceress) Médée has fallen in love with him and aided him in his quest through use of magic arts and murder. Returning with him to his native Thessaly, she has killed the usurping King Pelias. Pursued by his avenging son, Acastus, the couple have fled with their two young sons to Corinth, kingdom of Creon, and his daughter Creusa.

Act 1

Médée fears that Jason’s love is waning. He has paid court to the princess Creusa in order to win the favor and protection of her doting father, but Médée tells her confidante, Nerina, that she suspects the liaison has become no mere dalliance. Jason enters and dismisses her suspicions but asks her for a beautiful golden dress to give to Creusa. Left alone with his confidant Arcas, Jason admits the extent of his true feelings for Creusa. Arcas begs him to be mindful of the vengeful nature and magic powers of Médée. Creusa is betrothed to Prince Orontes of Argos, whose alliance Creon needs in the war that looms with Acastus of Thessaly. Although promised to Orontes, Creon tells Jason that Creusa shall be his once the battle is won. Orontes arrives, eager to meet his bride, and commits his army to Corinth’s defense. The Corinthians celebrate the union of Venus and Mars.

Act 2

Creon tells Médée that, for the safety of the realm and to calm the animosity of his people, she must be exiled for the duration of the war, leaving Jason and her children behind in Corinth. She protests that her crimes have all been for the sake of Jason but Creon orders her to be gone by the end of the day. She places her children in Creusa’s care and leaves. Alone together, Creusa and Jason declare their love but their tryst is interrupted by Orontes, who has prepared an entertainment to illustrate the sincerity of his passion for the princess. Captives of Love enter, pulling the chariot of Cupid, who urges Creusa to accept Orontes’ hand without further delay.

Act 3

Orontes promises Médée refuge in the land of Argos if she aids him in speeding the wedding to Creusa. She tells him her suspicions of the love between Jason and Creusa and that her banishment is a pretext to enable their marriage. They vow to support each other’s cause. Orontes leaves and Jason comes to bid Médée farewell. She begs him not to let her wander alone without him, but he argues the necessity of war, his allegiance to Creon and the good of their children. He leaves and Médée sadly contemplates her fate.

Nerina confirms her suspicions, telling Médée that Arcas has confessed to her th full extent of Jason’s plan to wed Creusa and reign in Corinth. Médée forces her from the room and summons her powers, unleashing the spirits of Jealousy and Vengeance. Demons arise and aid her as she casts a spell and poisons the golden dress destined for Creusa.

Act 4

Creusa’s confidante Cleonis and Jason admire Creusa’s beauty in the golden dress of Médée. The lovers steal a few moments together before Orontes arrives, giving vent to his angry suspicions. He is convinced of the truth of Médée’s words, but Médée appears, vowing that Creusa shall never be Jason’s bride. She orders him to leave her as she contemplates, trembling, the course her revenge must now take. Creon and soldiers enter. He is angry to find her within his palace and orders them to take her away. Médée casts another spell, disarming the guards and summoning the spirits of beautiful women to enchant the senses of Creon. Creon is driven insane by the vision and runs away, wildly through his palace.

Act 5

Nerina tells Médée of Creon’s ravings. Médée replies that her vengeance shall know no bounds in her desire to inflict suffering on Jason. Even his own sons shall not be spared. Creusa appears, begging Médée to lift the spell on her father. Médée promises to do so once she has seen Creusa wedded to Orontes and confronts the princess with her adulterous love for Jason. Terrified, she agrees to give Jason up if her father’s life is spared. Cleonis and the court enter with news that Creon, raving, has killed Orontes and then himself.

Creusa dismisses the lamenting Corinthians and turns in fury on Médée, swearing that Jason will take revenge. Médée touches her and leaves. The enchanted dress releases its poison and Creusa collapses in agony. Jason rushes in and she dies in his arms. Jason runs, distraught, to find a weapon to punish Médée but is confronted by her and the vision of his two sons, dead. Médée declares herself avenged and departs.

The palace is destroyed.

Summary and synopsis courtesy of Opéra Garnier, Paris.


About the Host:
Lisa Flynn has been a program host and producer for WFMT since 1991. She presents The New Releases and has hosted many programs for the WFMT Radio Network, including War Letters (which won the 2002 Peter Lisagor Award) and a series of live broadcasts from Salzburg to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006. As WFMT’s midday weekday announcer, Lisa hosts live studio performances and interviews guest artists including Renée Fleming, John Adams, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, John Eliot Gardiner, and many others. Before coming to Chicago, Lisa presented classical music at WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, and at WMFE and WUCF in Orlando, Florida. She holds a music degree from the University of Central Florida.


This program is a part of the WFMT Radio Network Opera Series, a series designed to complement the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to fill out the year with great Opera content. The series begins in June and lasts until the end of November.


Category: Operas
Duration: 2-hour / Varies by Opera
Frequency: Flexible
Availability: 07/27/2024 - 08/02/2024

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