Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giovanni Bononcini: La nemica d'Amore fatta amante.
25 Aug 2005

BONONCINI: La nemica d’Amore fatta amante

Giovanni Bononcini (Modena, 1670 - Vienna, 1747) is best known today for his dozen years in London, which began when he was 50 and Handel was 35. Five years later, a well-known epigram likened them to Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee . Londoners then had to decide whether Handel, compared to Bononcini, was "but a Ninny," or whether Bononcini, when matched with Handel, was "scarcely fit to hold a Candle." For many Londoners, the more luminous composer was Bononcini, since he had served munificent patrons for four decades before his arrival in England: duke Francesco II of Modena (1680s); two immensely wealthy noblemen - Filippo Colonna and Luigi de la Cerda, the Spanish ambassador - in Rome (1690s); two emperors - Leopold I and Joseph I - in Vienna (1700s); and an immensely wealthy Viennese ambassador in Rome (1710s).

Giovanni Bononcini: La nemica d'Amore fatta amante.
Serenata for 3 voices

Clori (Adriana Fernandez, soprano), Tirsi (Martin Oro, countertenor) and Fileno (Furio Zanasi, baritone), with Ensemble 415, directed by Chiara Banchini (solo violin).

Zig-Zag Territoires ZZT030801 [CD]

 

Bononcini established his fame in the 1690s by composing more than 200 solo cantatas, which were frequently recopied and spread his fame abroad; 6 serenatas, each of which had 3 or 4 characters; the final (most prestigious) act for 3 operas; and 4 complete operas, including the most successful opera of the decades around 1700 (Camilla) and the opera that Handel was to refashion into one of his most delightful works (Xerxes). During the month of August, at least a dozen Roman patrons - cardinals as well as noblemen - sponsored serenatas, which were performed on their balconies or on stages constructed outside of their palaces. For August 1692, at the end of Bononcini's first year in Rome, he and the Roman librettist Silvio Stampiglia wrote their first serenata, La nemica d'Amore. "The enemy of Love" was Clori, who rejected Tirsi's, then Fileno's attempts to woo her, because she refused to relinquish her highly prized liberty. Its complete score does not survive, but one copy of the libretto is extant. In it, as in the libretto for La nemica d'Amore fatta amante, the dedication is to Lorenza, the sister of Luigi and wife of Filippo, and it is signed "Giovanni Bononcini". His dedications request a favorable reception for the "poor shepherdess [Clori], who developed her skills within the rustic woods" ("povera pastorella, nudrita fra la semplicita delle selve"). Such pastoral contexts were highly favored, since they embodied the ideals of the Arcadian Academy, which had been founded at Rome in 1690; and its members included Silvio Stampiglia, Filippo Colonna and Luigi de la Cerda. The dedication of course has a double meaning, because Bononcini was a "rustic" (non-Roman), who was requesting a favorable reception in the eternal city.

In the August 1693 sequel, which has now been "embodied" by Ensemble 415, Clori ends her opening recitative by declaring that she, "the enemy of love, has became a lover." Although neither booklet acknowledges it, the performance materials (and the relevant liner notes) are based on the facsimile editions of the printed libretto in the Vatican Library and the manuscript score in the Library of Congress, which were published in Cantatas by Giovanni Bononcini, selected and introduced by Lowell Lindgren (New York, 1985). The other extant score, which has the arms of the Colonna family on its binding, is in the Santini Collection of the Dioezesanbibliothek in Muenster, Germany. Both scores were apparently copied at Rome in 1693.

The essence of Stampiglia's drama is brought forth by Bononcini's music, which is marvelously conveyed by the Ensemble 415 rendition. In its opening minutes, we are taken to a pastoral world, where time stands still: the archlute improvises dreamily for a while before the ensemble plays Bononcini's first chord, then the solo violin expands freely upon the "solo" motive placed between his opening chords, and the ensemble stresses Bononcini's affective chromaticisms and minor seconds (the "Neapolitan" degree). These delectable, yet sorrowful harmonic effects continue during Clori's opening recitative, which is accompanied only by the 5 violins and 2 violas in Ensemble 415. The other 6 players, which form the continuo contingent, are 2 cellos and 1 each of contrabass, archlute, theorbo and keyboards (namely, a copy of a 17th century cembalo and a positif organ). In most Italian dramatic works of 1693, the treble instruments of the orchestra would be utilized infrequently. The opposite is true in this work, since they play during the sinfonia, 8 arias, 1 recitative, and the ritornellos that end 7 arias. They are silent only during the two duets. Near the end of the serenata, two arias with orchestral ritornellos are accompanied by a soloist. One is a violinist (Chiara Banchini), who represents some incredibly virtuosic cooings of a turtle-dove, and the other is a cellist (Gaetano Nasillo), who mirrors and thus intensifies Tirsi's musings upon Clori's love for him. In the arias, Nasillo and a singer engage in contrapuntal duets, which he plays adroitly. He is thus an apt successor to the composer, who was renowned as a cellist, and played these parts in 1693. In the recitatives, there are many deft changes of instrumentation and expressive uses of rubato, which were presumably managed by Andrea Marchiol, who edited the score, coached the singers and played the keyboard continuo instruments. For example, the recitative before the Tirsi / Clori duet utilizes three different instrumental groups before the organ alone is utilized for "I languish / And I am dying." Equally effective is the recitative after Fileno's final aria. In order to break the spell of his invective-laden text, the continuo instruments improvise (that is, add to the written score) several statements of a stepwise descending bass pattern, then boldly accompany Clori and Tirsi's declarations of love, then let the organ alone accompany the words concerning marriage.

Clori (Adriana Fernandez, soprano) is the fascinating focus of the work. She magisterially sings 7 arias (and the conclusion of an 8th), 2 duets and 1 accompanied recitative, while Tirsi (Martin Oro, alto countertenor), whom she loves, sings only 4 arias and 1 duet, and Fileno (Furio Zanasi, baritone), whom she repeatedly repels, has only 3 arias and 1 duet. She captures every nuance of the great expressive range of her part, as she cogently conveys or wistfully whispers her grief, sensuously sings of her love for Tirsi, or adamantly proclaims her distaste for Fileno (by even interrupting and continuing one of his arias). She and her Buenos Aires compatriot, Martin Oro, add ornamentation judiciously, but hers have a magical, floating quality, while his are executed quite rapidly. His arias are all moderately slow, and he effectively conveys the dramatic function of each one. At the beginning his vocal production is markedly strident, because he does not believe Clori's avowals of love; afterwards it is increasingly tender, most notably in the flowing aria accompanied by a solo cello. Furio Zanasi sings his rapidly paced arias potently. He enters furiously, and jealous outbursts continue to intrude until he angrily departs with an invective-filled aria. He and Martin Oro are thus at opposite poles in terms of their roles and vocal production.

When this serenata was new, a reporter related that a "most sumptuous" ("suntuosissima") serenata had been performed on the night of San Lorenzo [10 August 1693] in the courtyard of Filippo Colonna, who thus honored his wife Lorenza. "Qui concorse tutta Roma." ("Here congregated all of Rome.") In 2003, when the serenata was 310 years old, the work was given a "most sumptuous" recording by Ensemble 415. It belongs in the collections of all who enjoy renditions of melodically, harmonically and texturally rich works composed near the end of the splendid seventeenth century.

Lowell E. Lindgren, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):