The plot is negligible; characterization and action almost nil; and the arias nondescript. This, surprisingly, doesn’t matter.
DER HOCHMÜTIGE, GESTÜRZTE UND WIEDER ERHABENE CROESUS Composer: Reinhard KeiserLibretto: Lukas von Bostel, after Nicolò Minato’s 1678 operaFirst performed: Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg, 1711.Revised: Theater am Gänsemarkt, Hamburg, 6 December 1730 Reinhard Keiser was once hailed as “the greatest opera composer in the world” (Johann Mattheson, writing his obituary in 1740). Thirty years later, one … Continue reading 135. Croesus (Keiser)
Five countertenors and a tenor in an opera seria masterpiece!
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)
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)
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)
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)