September 28, 2022

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Opera Album Evaluation: A Captivating Planet-Premiere Recording of A person of the Most Oft-Executed Operas in the 17th Century

6 min read

By Ralph P. Locke

Cross-gender disguises and comedian banter liven up the melodrama in this presentation of Antonio Cesti’s popular opera, thanks to a spirited and virtuosic traversal by a primarily Italian cast.

Antonio Cesti: La Dori

Francesca Ascioti (Dori/Ali), Emöke Barath (Tolomeo), Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli (Arsinoe), Rupert Enticknap (Oronte), Konstantin Derri (Bagoa), Federico Sacchi (Artaxerse)

Accademia Bizantina, cond. Ottavio Dantone

CPO 555309 [2 CDs] 161 minutes also available on DVD: Naxos BluRay 2110676

Antonio Cesti (1623-69) was one of the formative composers of Italian opera in the 17th century: a generation after Monteverdi, he overlapped chronologically with Cavalli. He bought some plum commissions, these types of as to supply the opera (Il pomo d’oro) to rejoice the relationship in 1666 in between Emperor Leopold I (of the Holy Roman Empire, headquartered in what is now Austria) and the Infanta of Spain Margaret Theresa. (I reproduce and go over a fascinating engraving of a scene from that opera, like a dark-skinned character representing Africa, in my e book New music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart, pp. 214-17.)

A recording of Cesti’s very long-famous opera Orontea was a great deal praised by file critics in 2017. (It was conducted by Ivor Bolton.) The existing recording is seemingly the earth-premiere recording of La Dori, one of the most generally-carried out (and often-altered) operas — by any individual — in the 17th century. There endure at minimum five competing manuscripts and some 27 printed librettos! (A new libretto was required for every new output of nearly any opera, mainly because of cuts and new additions.)

Cesti composed La Dori, or the Faithful Slave for the courtroom at Innsbruck (in, yet again, what is currently Austria — precisely the Tyrol, around Bavaria). It was very first done there in 1657. Carl Schmidt, in GroveOnline, describes the do the job as “a masterpiece of mistaken identities, secondary enjoy intrigues, comedian interludes, speedy-hearth dialogues and unanticipated resolutions … [and distinguished by] the even distribution of arias and duets all over the 3 functions, an efficient comedian ingredient and the significant quality of the music alone.”

As is common of mid-17th-century operas, every scene progresses in a flexible way, via a cost-free alternation of recitative-like passages and short arioso statements that, in happier or far more sarcastic times in the plot, can move suddenly into calculated passages in brief triple meter that appear nearly dancelike. I admired Cavalli’s mastery of this sort of musical dramaturgy in the fantastically carried out L’Ipermestra (led by conductor and master lutenist Mike Fentross). I was captivated here by Cesti’s very similar command. Specially gratifying are people moments the place two or far more voices be a part of in music: for example, a variety for two woman characters (CD 1, keep track of 11) or a single for a few people: two adult men and a faux-male (Artaxerxes, Oronte, and Ali CD 1, track 21). You can hear the starting of each individual track right here. And the entire recording is accessible for totally free on YouTube, broken into 51 tracks (and of study course is also available to subscribers of Spotify and other subscription solutions).

The plot requires Dori, princess of Persia, and Oronte, prince of Nicaea, who are devoted to each and every other but have been separated by difficult situation. They at some point obtain every single other again, however not till right after Oronte has listened to a fake report that Dori has died. (This is opera: Dori was provided a really like potion in its place, which in this circumstance wasn’t essential, given that she presently beloved him.)

A scene from the 2019 Innsbruck Early Audio Festival output of La Dori. Photograph: Naxos.

Dori spends almost the overall opera in disguise as an Egyptian slave (male) named Ali. Dori’s sister Arsinoe is loved by Tolomeo, who spends most of the opera in disguise as a female, Celinda (this is the double-part taken by soprano Emöke Barath). There are also comedian roles for a nurse named Dirce and a boorish servant named Golo. In simple fact, the opera calls for 10 singers, and they take 12 roles, if one particular counts the second identities assumed by two of them. You are going to have to comply with the libretto meticulously — unless of course of program you desire to just listen, which I did a large amount of the time, fairly happily.

The effectiveness is captivating. Just lately, I was delighted to report on a new recording of Vivaldi’s Tamerlano that associated this identical early-instrument orchestra, Accademia Bizantina (established in 1986 in Ravenna, Italy). Ottavio Dantone, its songs director considering the fact that 1996, performed that recording splendidly and does so once again listed here. There are a great deal of hues in his orchestra (transverse flute, two recorders, a number of plucked instruments together with harp). We could have made use of some phrases of rationalization about how a great deal has been indicated in the rating and how significantly has been extra conjecturally. Some of this may perhaps go beyond what scholars can be guaranteed was finished at the time, but most listeners will be content for the occasional assortment in seems.

Most effective of all, Dantone avoids engaging in the occasional lickety-break up tempi that frequently pushed his high-quality singers to their limit in florid passagework in the Vivaldi recording. Of system, Cesti calls for florid and propulsive singing a lot less frequently than does Vivaldi (fifty percent a century later on). But I really don’t signify to exaggerate: there is (happily for us voice-enthusiasts) some coloratura.

The singers are again kinds that I had under no circumstances heard right before. The most common title right here is Barath, whom I had hardly ever encountered but, I see, has been highlighted in crucial performances of Cavalli operas and in recordings of operas by Handel, Vivaldi, Gluck, and Leclair, moreover an album of scenes from a few Orfeo operas.

Emőke Baráth and Pietro Di Bianco in a scene from the 2019 Innsbruck Early Songs Festival production of La Dori. Picture: Innsbrucker Festwochen / Rupert Larl.

Some of the singers are weak at the low conclusion of their array (Bradley Smith or, even worse, Pietro di Bianco) or unsteady in vocal output (Rocco Cavaluzzi and, once again, di Bianco). But many others supply reliable satisfaction (Federico Sacchi: a genuine bass who, wonder of miracles, is also fluent in coloratura) and even accurate delight (countertenors Rubert Enticknap and Konstantin Derri, the latter in a comic role: the eunuch Bagoa). Ideal of all (that is, aside from the predictably excellent Barath) are soprano Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli (as Arsinoe) and alto Francesca Ascioti, in the title job of Dori/Ali. Most of the singers are Italian, and they exhibit a keen knowing of the words they are singing, possibly primarily the tenor Alberto Allegrezza as the nurse Dirce.

The recording blends three staged performances at the Innsbruck Festwochen in August 2019. Charming photos from the generation suggest how gratifying the occasion was — and, for at the time, how appropriately costumed (not current to Nazi Germany or to Beatles-period “swinging London”). A DVD of this very same manufacturing is also offered from Naxos (standard and BluRay). I’ve viewed some bits on YouTube: the eunuch Bagoa has a lot much more “presence” in the action than if you are just hearing him. But, possibly way, a significantly welcome launch!

Outstanding booklet-essay, full libretto, and crystal clear translations of the two.

Ralph P. Locke is emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman Faculty of Music. 6 of his content have won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in composing about audio. His most modern two guides are Musical Exoticism: Visuals and Reflections and New music and the Unique from the Renaissance to Mozart (both Cambridge University Push). Each are now readily available in paperback the 2nd, also as an e-book. Ralph Locke also contributes to American Report Guideline and to the on the web arts-magazines New York ArtsOpera Currently, and The Boston Musical Intelligencer. His articles have appeared in major scholarly journals, in Oxford Songs Online (Grove Dictionary), and in the program publications of main opera houses, e.g., Santa Fe (New Mexico), Wexford (Ireland), Glyndebourne, Covent Yard, and the Bavarian Condition Opera (Munich). The existing evaluation initially appeared in American History Manual and appears right here with variety authorization.

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