It’s sometimes a bit of a mystery why some works disappear from the opera repertoire while other, not obviously superior, works enjoy lasting success so it’s always a pleasure to discover an obscure work that is really good (1). Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta fits that description in my view. It’s basically an opera seria much along the lines of Mozart’s opere serie (opera serias? – who knows?(2)) except that there’s a longish ballet at the end of Act 1. There are long, florid, arias with, for the two female leads, very high tessitura. Two of the three male roles were written for castrati and the one intact male role is for that sort of heroic tenor who crops up in Idomeneo or La Clemenza di Tito. It’s not as formulaic as works of 50 years earlier. There are far more ensemble and choral numbers than in any of Handel’s Italian works. It’s also just plain rather good. Salieri understands singers and he writes really good melodies. I guess he was just a bit unfortunate to have that pesky Salzburger as competition.
This week kicks off with a concert performance of a rarity; Salieri’s Falstaff. It’s a concert performance by Voicebox:Opera in Concert. Larry Beckwith conducts the Aradia Ensemble and a cast of Voicebox stalwarts. You can catch it at 2.30pm today at the Jane Mallett Theatre.
There are two free events on Tuesday. Chris Purves, Alberich in the COC’s Siegfried, has a lunchtime recital in the RBA with Liz Upchurch at the piano. The programme includes Mussorgsky, Handel and Duparc. At 8pm in the Victoria College chapel you can catch Dean Burry’s graduate recital as he finishes up his PhD. Soon perhaps Canada’s most performed composer will no longer be a lowly TA. Oh the joys of credentialism!
Voicebox:Opera in Concert closed out their 2014/15 season yesterday afternoon with Charpentier’s Louise (review to come in Opera Canada). Thay also announced their plans for next season. There will be, again, three productions. The first two will be single performances, on November 22nd 2015 and February 7th 2016 of Borodin’s Prince Igor (presumably heavily cut) and Salieri’s Falstaff. The third will be the premiere of Peter Anthony Togni’s and Sharon Singer’s Isis and Osiris which will run from March 29th to April 3rd 2016. All performances are at the Jane Mallett Theatre. The first two works will presumably be performed in Voicebox’s “minimally staged” style. No word yet on staging or musical accompaniment for Isis and Osiris.
Yesterday saw the first free lunchtime concert of 2013 at the Four Seasons Centre. Five singers from the COC’s Ensemble Studio gave us a programme of works by Mozart and Salieri, mostly comparative rarities. I enjoy hearing the singers of the Ensemble Studio because it’s not just a chance to hear some good singing but also to see how voices are developing and make some guesses about whether one is seeing a future star.