Spontini’s 1807 work La Vestale is the latest French opera to get the Palazzetto Bru Zane treatment. Ir’s extremely interesting as this work has a performance history not unlike the more famous Médée of Charpentier. It’s very much a tragédie lyrique in the same basic style as the works of Gluck, though with some compositional innovations that did not endear the composer to the Paris musical establishment. Indeed, but for the determined patronage of the Empress Josephine it likely would never have made it to the stage. Like Médée it was initially very successful before disappearing from the repertoire in the later 19th century. Also like Médée it was the subject of a mid 20th century revival, notably a 1954 La Scala production (in Italian) by Visconti featuring Maria Callas. Inevitably given the time and place it was given in a style that owed more to verismo than French classicism with a large modern orchestra, conventional (by 1950s standards) tempi and a rather more overblown singing style than was ever heard in early 19th century Paris. If it were revived again for major houses one imagines it would still get essentially the same treatment. Perhaps it will be the next international diva vehicle for Sondra Radvanovsky? Continue reading
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Searing Simon Boccanegra
Sometimes a video recording just seems to have it all and I would put the 2019 Salzburg Festival version of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra in that category. It’s quite an interesting production but it’s the sheer quality of the music making that puts it in the very top bracket. It’s also technically very good in all departments.
Rossini’s last opera, Guillaume Tell, was written for Paris and is an extremely ambitious piece of great musical sophistication. It’s also very long. Performed uncut, a rarity, it runs something like four hours including ballets. It’s also hard to cast with the role of Arnold Melcthal in particular making unusual demands. It’s a high tenor role combining the flexibility needs of a typical Rossini role with something much more heroic. The soprano role of Mathilde has some of the same issues; signature Rossini coloratura is combined with the sort of dramatic heft one might more associate with early Wagner.