Scarlatti’s Griselda is based on a story from the Decameron. Gualtiero, king of Sicily, has married Griselda, a shepherdess. The people are upset that the king has married beneath him and are getting stroppy. Gualtiero sets out to prove Griselda a worthy consort by testing her constancy. He repudiates Griselda and sends her back to shepherding while arranging to marry an Apulian princess Constanza, who both he and Corrado, duke of Apulia, know to be his daughter by Griselda. It’s complicated by one Ottone who is infatuated by Griselda and Roberto, son of Corrado, who is in love with Costanza, who returns his feelings. Griselda is put through various humiliating trials in which she repeatedly shows her devotion to Gualtiero. Eventually the people recognise her virtue and all is restored. One notable thing, unlike his predecessor Cavalli, Scarlatti doesn’t inject any incongruous or comic passages into the opera. It’s all deadpan serious.
Cavalli’s Ercole Amante is an oddity. It was intended as a wedding present from Cardinal Mazarin to Louis XIV but got hijacked by Lully who inserted a bunch of ballets for the king to dance stretching out the piece to something like six hours. It wasn’t a great success. It’s also a very odd story for a piece intended for a royal patron as I explained in reviewing an earlier recording. It’s also in Italian which may make the only French court work to be performed in that language.
Most people probably know Adolphe Adam as thecomposer of the music for the ballet Giselle but he was more than that. He was also a scholar who worked hard to study and revive the work of Rameau and other pre-Revolution composers. So, when tasked with composing a piece for the Opéra Comique he chose to combine elements that had produced previous “hits”; a vocationally based plot, a love story and so on with a Louis XV setting that allowed him to include pastiche Baroque. The result was Le postillon de Lonjumeau; a work that had much success across Europe during the mid 19th century (Wagner conducted it in Riga) but which had long disappeared from the repertory when the Opéra Comique revived it in 2019. Denise Wendel-Poray reviewed it in the Summer 2019 issue of Opera Canada and it has now been released on DVD and Blu-ray.