|Michael Taylor, Augusta Hebbert, Leo Duarte, Maria Ostroukhova, |
Cenk Karaferya, Gyula Rab, Erica Eloff (at from)
Michael Taylor, Maria Ostroukhova, Erica Eloff, Augusta Hebbert, Gyula Rab, Cenk Karaferya, Leo Duarte
Opera Settecento at Cadogan Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 16 2015
Dramatically engaging performance of an unjustly neglected Pergolesi opera seria
Pergolesi is now best known for his Stabat Mater and his comic operas. But these comic operas often started out life as interludes between the acts of a longer opera seria, yet Pergolesi's four opere serie seem to have been forgotten. On Wednesday 16 September 2015 at the Cadogan Hall, Opera Settecento (artistic director Miranda Jackson) gave the first UK performance of Pergolesi's opera Adriano in Siria, a setting of Metastasio's libretto (also set by JC Bach as performed by Classical Opera, see my review) which premiered in Naples in 1734 (two years before Pergolesi's death). Leo Duarte conducted a strong and highly international cast with Michael Taylor as Adriano, Maria Ostroukhova as Emirena, Erica Eloff as Farnaspe, Augusta Hebbert as Sabina, Gyula Rab as Osroa, Cenk Karaferya as Aquileo. Leo Duarte conducted the Orchestra of Opera Settecento playing on period instruments.
|Conductor Leo Duarte|
South-African soprano Erica Eloff sang Farnaspe, Canadian counter-tenor Michael Taylor sang Adriano (the sort of low soprano role accessible to a high counter-tenor), Augusta Hebbert sang Sabina (a real soprano role), Russian mezzo-soprano Mara Ostroukhova sang Emirena (effectively a mezzo-soprano role), with Turkish/American counter-tenor Cenk Karaferya as Aquilio. Hungarian tenor Gyula Rab completed the cast as Osroa.
|Leo Duarte, Maria Ostroukhova, Erica Eloff|
Pergolesi's version of the libretto is edited down, he reduced the number of arias by 7, some scenes proceed with a remarkable pace unfettered by arias and a number of the characters had their exit arias removed. Pergolesi did not live long enough to make real innovations to the opera seria form, but he clearly did not set Metastasio's libretto uncritically. His arias are not structurally innovative, he plays none of the games with the da capo form which Handel did later in his career. But within this, Pergolesi brings an appealing melodic sense, combined with sense of the musical drama and affekt.
|Michael Taylor, Augusta Hebbert|
Erica Eloff was superb as Farnaspe, a role designed to show off the bravura technique of the castrato Caffarelli (for whom Handel wrote Ariodante). Farnaspe is the noble, tragic and long-suffering hero of the piece and Eloff not only sang with brilliant bravura skill, but made him expressively moving without been annoyingly idiotic (as some opera seria heroes can be). She got to sing the arias which closed both Acts One and Two, and the long (very long) aria which closed Act One was a superbly notable moment as she expressively duetted with the solo oboe. Her voice had a lovely freedom to it and the bravura moments were carried off with devastating aplomb.
|Oboist Daniel Lanthier|
|Horn players Martin Lawrence,|
& Anneke Scott
Osroa is the monomaniac obsessive in the cast (this version of the libretto allows him no pause for reflection) and Gyula Rab brought this out brilliantly in a series of bravura arias, his Act Two aria being particularly notable with its fine horn parts (played by Anneke Scott and Martin Lawrence). Cenk Keraferya played the small but important role of Aquilio, making his one aria count whilst evidently battling illness (so his other aria was cut).
Led by Guy Button the orchestra gave a finely expressive account of the opera, clearly enjoying Pergolesi's lively and varied orchestration (I am delighted to report that the horns cropped up a few times during the evening). Leo Duarte (who also plays the oboe), conducted and paced the piece with fluency whilst giving space to the singers. This was an account of a long-ish opera seria which never palled, and with Pergolesi's music rendered with poise and grace.
Elsewhere on this blog:
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- Lyric melancholy: Ian Venables Song of the Severn - CD review
- Brought to life: Anne Boleyn's Songbook performed by Alamire - concert review
- Monteverdi's L'Orfeo from Jordi Savall - CD review
- Exploding with joy: Choir of Gonville and Caius College at Kings Place Festival
- The passions are the same: My encounter with Christophe Rousset - interview
- Handel survey: Handel in Italy from Bridget Cunningham - CD review
- Charm and delight: The Cunning Little Vixen from British Youth Opera - opera review
- Technology and class in the development of opera and concert-going - feature article
- Missed opportunity: Prom 65, Alice Coote in Handel - concert review
- Colour and Drama: Mozart and more from Anneke Scott and Ironwood - CD review
- An Avila Diary: My adventures singing triple-choir music by Victoria and Vivanco under Peter Phillips in Spain - feature article
- Serious, independent, fascinating: Music by Edward McGuire from Red Note - CD review
- Charm: Wolf-Ferrari's Suite Veneziana - CD review
- Undeservedly forgotten: Music by Roger Sacheverell Coke - Cd review
- Wartime consolations: Linus Roth plays music by Weinberg and Hartmann which deserves to be heard