104. L’incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi)

Composer: Claudio Monteverdi Libretto: Giovanni Francesco Busenello First performed: Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, 1643 carnival season Nero was the first historical figure to appear in an opera.  He would probably have been delighted. He was, after all, an opera singer himself. Good emperors were deified after their deaths, but Nero was less divus than … Continue reading 104. L’incoronazione di Poppea (Monteverdi)

103. Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (Monteverdi)

Composer: Claudio Monteverdi Libretto: Giacomo Baodaro First performed: Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, 1639–1640 Carnival season Il ritorno d'Ulisse is rather like a Shakespearean Romance: a part-melancholic, part-comic story of gods, castaways, shipwrecks, transformations, perilous voyages, and disguises, which ends, after many years, with a family reunited. Based on Homer’s Odyssey, the opera tells of the hero’s … Continue reading 103. Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (Monteverdi)

102. Euridice (Jacopo Peri)

Composer: Jacopo Peri Libretto: Ottavio Rinuccini, after Ovid's Metamorphoses First performed: Palazzo Pitti, Florence, 6 October 1600 "THE FIRST EVER OPERA," shouts the Authentic Arts CD. Catchy advertising, but inaccurate; same composer, though. Peri's Dafne (1594, now lost) is considered the first true opera. Euridice is merely (!) the oldest surviving opera. Listening to it, … Continue reading 102. Euridice (Jacopo Peri)

94. Simon Boccanegra (Giuseppe Verdi)

Opera in a prologue and three acts Composer: Giuseppe Verdi Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave, with additions by Giuseppe Montanelli, after Antonio García Gutiérrez's play Simón Bocanegra First performed: Teatro la Fenice, Venice, 12 March 1857 Revised version: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 24 March 1881, with additions and alterations by Arrigo Boito "I've had a fiasco in … Continue reading 94. Simon Boccanegra (Giuseppe Verdi)

90. Maria di Rudenz (Gaetano Donizetti)

Composer: Gaetano Donizetti Libretto: Salvadore Cammarano, after Anicet-Bourgeois, Cuvelier & Maillan’s La nonne sanglante; Matthew Lewis’ The Monk First performed: Teatro La Fenice, Venice, 30 January 1838 Maria di Rudenz is, Charles Osborne says, "complex, overwrought, and grisly" - and, in the cold light of day, it certainly seems lurid. Fratricide; a soprano who dies three times  (she comes … Continue reading 90. Maria di Rudenz (Gaetano Donizetti)

85. Caritea, regina di Spagna (Saverio Mercadante)

Melodramma serio in 2 acts Composer: Saverio Mercadante Libretto: Paolo Pola First performed: Teatro la Fenice, Venice, 21 February 1826 CHARACTERS CARITEA (soprano): Ester Mombelli DON ALFONSO, King of Portugal (tenor): Domenico Donzelli DON DIEGO, under the name of Don Pirro of Aragon, son of Don Fernando (contralto): Isabella Fabbrica DON FERNANDO, old Spanish captain general (bass): Domenico Cosselli DON RODRIGO, … Continue reading 85. Caritea, regina di Spagna (Saverio Mercadante)

84. The prolific Pacini in Pompei

Giovanni Pacini may hold the record as the 19th century's most prolific opera composer.  His contemporaries reckoned he'd written a hundred works; closer attention whittled this down to a more manageable 74.Nearly all of them have been forgotten.“This abandonment,” Arthur Pougin (Le Ménestrel, 28 October 1866) wrote, “is the just punishment that awaits a man of talent … Continue reading 84. The prolific Pacini in Pompei