September 19, 2021

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Opera Album Overview: A To start with-Amount Planet-Premiere Recording of a Short Baroque Opera about the Youthful Aeneas

7 min read

By Ralph P. Locke

I really don’t recall encountering a modern Baroque recording that is sung with this kind of a wonderful balance of smoothness and character.

Johann Adolph Hasse: Enea in Caonia

Carmela Remigio (Ilia), Francesca Ascioti (Enea), Rafaella Lupinacci (Andromaca), Paola Valentina Molinari (Eleno), Celso Albelo (Niso).

Enea Barock Orchestra, cond. Stefano Montanari.

CPO 555334 [2 CDs] 104 minutes.

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This globe-premiere recording of a shorter opera from 1727 by Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783), a near-contemporary of Bach (but better recognised and paid out), seems at initially to have been put collectively for the reason of allowing us listen to this one lengthy-forgotten perform by Hasse. The alto Francesca Ascioti, who sings the title role of Enea (Aeneas), is mentioned as “project supervisor,” and the Enea Barock Orchestra bears the exact same identify as nicely.

But the booklet implies that this freshly founded orchestra (which involves musicians from several international locations and is headquartered in Rome) will carry on to explore other Baroque-era operates that in some way cross the mountainous boundaries that separate Italy from lands to the north. The initiative seems useful, given the intensive cultural cross-influences between the Italian peninsula and the German-talking lands (to which they could moderately insert the French- and Flemish/Dutch-talking ones as nicely). Hasse is a purely natural aim: initially from Bavaria, he made his early career in Italy — where he composed the get the job done listened to right here — and then brought Italian-type opera and church music north to Dresden (in Saxony).

I was inclined to like the recording the second I noticed that it included Ascioti, a marvelously clever alto, whose singing I discovered at after beautiful and spectacular in a Cesti opera (see my evaluation), and because I was so taken with the two Hasse operas that I take place to know: Attilio Regolo and the one particular opera of his that is fairly acquainted currently, Cleofide. In addition some quite high-quality arias that he wrote for Il Tigrane, to be sung by “the Other Cleopatra”: princess of Pontus and upcoming queen of Armenia. (See my review of Isabel Bayrakdarian’s modern and beautifully poised recording of Cleopatra’s arias from operas by Hasse, Vivaldi, and Gluck.)

I was not unhappy. The plot is easy but intriguing for any person who is familiar with a bit of Roman record. In this article we reencounter Aeneas and Andromache, but in an episode from prior to Aeneas’s arrival in Carthage, so there is no Dido. In its place, we are amid the Chaonians in Epirus (a area in northeastern Greece that today laps about into southern Albania).

Andromache has married the youthful king Helenus (Eleno), and the two of them close up encouraging Aeneas to continue on his gods-ordained route (which, we know, will consequence in the founding of Rome on the Tiber). Some depth is extra by Andromache’s continuing sorrow around her late partner Hector and some stress, by the infatuation of King Nisus of Chaonia — Niso, a previous wartime buddy of Aeneas — with Ilia, “a humble Trojan huntress who dwells in the woods of Chaonia” and who last but not least rejects Niso in order to continue being absolutely free.

From the opening sinfonia and Enea’s initial aria to the brief closing refrain (which in this article implies “number sung by all the solo singers together”), the score provides delight soon after delight. Although the get the job done is of class mainly a collection of da capo arias, Hasse usually lends specificity to a range by intriguing string figurations or some other instrumental color. A pair of horns in the to start with aria sung by Niso implies to the alert listener that Niso is a hunter, a reality that Enea confirms in recitative quickly thereafter. A next sinfonia (borrowed from a different Hasse opera, and virtually 7 minutes extensive) opens Act 2 and brings loads of incisive entries for the oboes and energetic (but well-controlled) scurrying and slashing in the strings.

Enea in Caonia is an case in point of a serenata: an opera meant, usually, for performance at a private palace — this kind of as to honor a wedding ceremony or christening — and therefore on the short side and requiring few singers and small staging. Hasse composed it somewhat early in his occupation, perhaps on the situation of a joint take a look at to Naples (which was then below Austrian rule) by Violante Beatrice, daughter of the elector of Bavaria, and her nephew Clemens August, the elector of Cologne.

In this scenario, we have 5 figures, two female (Ilia and Andromaca) and 3 male. But notable male roles in Italian operas in these days were being typically assigned to castrati (or once in a while to feminine singers). This kind of roles are these days assigned possibly to a female singer, a countertenor, or (normally the worst resolution) a baritone singing the aspect an octave as well very low. In the current recording, only Niso, a tenor alternatively than castrato purpose, is sung by a male. Put in a different way, if you enjoy Baroque new music but can not abide countertenors (and I know some songs lovers who can not), this recording is just ideal for you.

I need to point out two incredibly creamy sopranos: Carmela Remigio, whom I experienced found with great enjoyment in Donizetti’s Il Castello di Kenilworth (Sept/Oct 2019), and Paola Valentina Molinari, as the youthful king of Epirus, Helenus (Eleno). Molinari will get to sing the work’s one particular accompanied recitative, in which Helenus — who, as in Virgil’s Aeneid is a type of seer — foretells Aeneas’s long run struggles and his victorious founding of Rome, on the Tiber. (This is CD 2, monitor 20. All the tracks numbers in the libretto are much too small by a person for CD2, due to the fact anyone forgot to number the inserted sinfonia that commences the act off.)

Soprano Carmela Remigio in the CPO recording session for Enea in Caonia.

I really don’t recall encountering a the latest Baroque recording that is sung with this sort of a great balance of smoothness and character. (The only disappointment arrives from the one male singer, Celso Albelo, whose breath is not constantly entirely supported.) Just listen to the way that alto Ascioti, in Enea’s initially aria, breaks up some of Hasse’s florid strains into joyously unconnected notes, suggesting laughter. Or how Andromaca (“mezzo-soprano” Lupinacci, who appears like an alto to me) provides vent to her sorrow above the demise of her beloved Hector in her to start with aria. The booklet credits Vivica Genaux (a person of my beloved singers) with acquiring coached the solid members.

(The whole recording can be read, in different tracks, on YouTube — or, at least for the minute, as a one extensive file — and, smoothly joined, on Spotify and other streaming websites. The beginning of each and every track can be listened to right here.)

It undoubtedly helps that most of the singers are indigenous Italian-speakers. This reinforces a stage that I have designed in a selection of my recent evaluations for the Arts Fuse about how much additional communicative singers are in a language they speak fluently. And this can be accurate even when the work is sung in translation, which is not the situation below, but is in an occasion I have drawn attention to here: the very first-at any time recording of the German version of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s I quatro rusteghi (Die vier Grobiane), sung just about entirely by indigenous German-speakers.

The recording was manufactured in the Villa Torlonia in Rome in September 2019. I hope that, as the pandemic recedes, the Enea Barock Orchestra (a identify mixing Italian and German text in German phrase-purchase!) will resume its meant project of bringing forth extra operates of the interval that crossed the borders between Italy and its northern neighbors. This Hasse launch augurs nicely for their achievements.

High-quality booklet, with an essay by Hasse authority Raffaele Mellace and the total libretto, all perfectly translated. But a track record ought to absolutely identify the character singing, not the singer. It places a stumbling block in the route of the reader trying to flip immediately amongst track listing and libretto.


Ralph P. Locke is emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Rochester’s Eastman College of New music. Six of his content articles have won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about tunes. His most current two publications are Musical Exoticism: Photographs and Reflections and Music and the Unique from the Renaissance to Mozart (both Cambridge University Press). Equally are now accessible in paperback the 2nd, also as an e-guide. Ralph Locke also contributes to American Record Manual and to the on the web arts-magazines New York ArtsOpera These days, and The Boston Musical Intelligencer. His content have appeared in important scholarly journals, in Oxford Songs On line (Grove Dictionary), and in the system books of key opera properties, e.g., Santa Fe (New Mexico), Wexford (Ireland), Glyndebourne, Covent Yard, and the Bavarian Point out Opera (Munich). The current evaluate first appeared in American History Manual and seems here with sort permission.

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