129. Castor et Pollux (Rameau)

Tragédie en musique in 5 actsComposer: Jean-Philippe RameauLibretto: Gentil-BernardFirst performed: Académie royale de musique (1re salle du Palais-Royal), 24 October 1737 ; revised 1754 Of all Rameau's operas, Claude Debussy most admired Castor et Pollux, and, on his deathbed, he regretted he was unable to attend a performance. Since 1903, Debussy had held up Rameau (and … Continue reading 129. Castor et Pollux (Rameau)

128. La serva padrona (Pergolesi)

Intermezzo in 2 partsComposer: Giovanni Battista PergolesiLibretto: Gennarantonio FedericoFirst performed: Teatro San Bartolomeo, Naples, 28 August 1733 For a comic interlude of 45 minutes, La serva padrona carries a lot of weight on her slim shoulders.  She’s the ancestrix of both the Italian opera buffa and the French opéra comique. The wily maidservant Serpina (little … Continue reading 128. La serva padrona (Pergolesi)

127. Germanico in Germania (Porpora)

Dramma per musica in 3 actsComposer: Nicola PorporaLibretto: Nicola ColuzziFirst performed: Teatro Capricana, Rome, 11 February 1732 Nicola Porpora was a master of writing for the human voice. In his day, he was one of Italy’s foremost singing teachers; his pupils at the Conservatorio di Sant’Onofrio, Naples, included the castrati Farinelli and Caffarelli (who studied … Continue reading 127. Germanico in Germania (Porpora)

126. Catone in Utica (Vinci)

Opera seria in 3 actsComposer: Leonardo VinciLibretto: Pietro MetastasioFirst performed: Teatro Alibert, Rome, 19 January 1728 A Roman triumph!  Decca’s 2015 recording (conductor Riccardo Minasi, with Il Pomo d’Oro) of this Caesarian opera seria has some of the most extraordinary singing I’ve ever heard.  Veni, audivi, Vinci, one might say. Catone in Utica was Leonardo … Continue reading 126. Catone in Utica (Vinci)

A note on Metastasio

The 18th century has been called the age of Metastasio. The Roman poet's 27 libretti were set more than 800 times, and used as late as the 19th century, including by Meyerbeer (Semiramide riconosciuta, 1819) and Mercadante (Didone abbandonata, 1823).  The most famous Metastasian opera today is Mozart’s Clemenza di Tito. Born Pietro Trapassi, 1698–1782; … Continue reading A note on Metastasio

124. Orlando furioso (Vivaldi)

Dramma per musico in 3 actsComposer: Antonio VivaldiLibretto: Grazio Braccioli, after Ariosto's Orlando FuriosoFirst performed: Teatro Sant'Angelo, Venice, autumn 1727 Vivaldi, like his wicked sorceress Alcina, enchants the senses, then lures us into a queasily erotic nightmare of the sort we associate more with Richard Strauss than opera seria. Gustave Doré's depiction of Alcina The … Continue reading 124. Orlando furioso (Vivaldi)

123. Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Handel)

Dramma per musico in 3 actsComposer: George Frideric HandelLibretto: Niccolò Francesco Haym after Giacomo Francesco BussaniFirst performed: King's Theater, Haymarket, London, 20 February 1724 The ides of March may have passed, but we still have time to stab Caesar. Here it is: the most famous and beloved opera seria. Keates calls it a "tragicomic masterpiece"; … Continue reading 123. Giulio Cesare in Egitto (Handel)