Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI (1710-1736)
Adriano in Siria - Dramma per musica in three acts (1734)
With the intermezzo Livietta e Tracollo (1734)
Adriano in Siria
Adriano - Marina Comparato (mezzo)
Emirena - Lucia Cirillo (mezzo)
Farnaspe - Annamaria dell’Oste (soprano)
Sabina - Nicole Heaston (soprano)
Osroa - Stefano Ferrari (tenor)
Aquilio Tribuno – Francesca Lombardi (soprano)
Livietta e Tracollo
Livietta - Monica Bacelli (mezzo)
Tracollo – Carlo Lepore (bass)
Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone
rec. Teatro G.B. Pergolesi, Jesi, 8 and 12 June 2010
Stage Director: Ignacio Garcia
Set Design: Zulima Memba del Olmo
Costume Design: Patricia Toffolutti
Lighting Design: Ignacio Garcia and Fabrizio Gobbi
Picture Format: NTSC / Colour / 16:9
Region code: All regions
Audio Format: LPCM 2.0; DTS Digital Surround
Booklet: English, French and German
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish and Italian
OPUS ARTE OA 1065 D [190.00 + 12:00 (bonus)]
If Photoshop, or similar, enables me to modify digitally my photographs, then can the time be far distant when Soundshop, or similar, will enable me to modify digitally a CD or DVD. Nothing sophisticated, just a volume control to move between singers and orchestra, to reduce the volume of one or the other.
I could but wish that I had had that facility for this production. I would have turned down by a notch or two the volume of Ottavio Dantone’s Accademia Bizantina. That would have brought into sharper focus the bright gleaming sounds of a strong team of less well known singers. Please do not conclude from that, that the Accademia is anything other than excellent: whether as the whole Accademia for the opera of the title or the reduced group for the intermezzo of Livietta e Tracollo. They sweep the music along in fine style.
Although this production of the opera is not exactly as written by Pergolesi, it is performed with the intermezzo of the original production. Ottavio Dantone in a ‘bonus’ talk, ranges over Pergolesi as a composer, the historical position of Pergolesi and the opera, intermezzi, the Jesi theatre and the singers. He explains that this production is “...our version of Adriano...” . The intermezzo, an inherent part of Neapolitan opera of the period, may be viewed either as a comedic foil to the dramatic, noble events of the opera, or, more prosaically, to stop the audience becoming restless and bored during scene changing.
No fear of boredom here. This is a ‘one set fits all’. You just need to be quick of eye or ear to pick up precisely where the scene is: but frankly it is not fundamental. This is just a great vehicle to set off some excellent vocal performances; which harks back to it being written to enable Caffarelli, the pre-eminent castrato of his day, to demonstrate his vocal prowess.
Metastasio’s original libretto was substantially re-written for Caffarelli, taking the role of Farnaspe. A distinguished cast was assembled to celebrate the birthday of the Spanish Queen Mother, whose son had just re-captured the Kingdom of Sicily with its capital Naples. Where else would the first performance take place but Naples itself, by then Pergolesi’s home.
So what of the plot? We are in Antioch circa 120AD. The Roman Emperor Hadrian (Adriano) has defeated the Parthians led by their king Osroa and captured Osroa’s daughter Emirena. This being opera, despite being betrothed to Sabina, Adriano has fallen for Emirena, who herself is betrothed to Farnaspe a Parthian prince or combatant. At which point the opera opens.
To add the necessary ‘plot stirrer’, Adriano’s accompanying Tribune, Aquilio, is in love with Adriano’s betrothed Sabina. Aquilio encourages Adriano’s love for Emirena so leaving Sabina free for himself. Interspersed with that continuing theme, Osroa sets fire to the Roman camp, later mistakenly believes he has killed Adriano, and is captured. So all is set for a tragic end: but no, this is a birthday-celebration opera so all ends happily following Adriano’s self-revelatory moment. Couples are reconciled, treachery forgiven and lands restored to pardoned enemies. All this to lyrically melodic music with instrumentation to match.
Generalities are usually unsatisfactory. However one or two can be made usefully about the standard of singing. The diction of all is admirable. They keep an excellent musical line well focused on word and phrase at all times. They are totally involved in the opera plot whether singing, watching or re-acting to another. Heart and soul are put into their roles.
Marina Comparato, in the title role, has not the strongest voice, particularly in her lower register, but this is more than made up for in splendidly clear mid-note hitting , comfortable trills and confidant runs. Her first aria is of conventional length but her two later ones, sadly, are less the two minutes each.
Annamaria dell’Oste (Farnese, the part written for Caffarelli) has the highlights, with arias closing Acts 1 and 2. Lieto così tal volta (DVD1, tr.19) concluding Act 1 is accompanied by an oboe obbligato and pizzicato strings. Strong runs, impressive sound in her upper reaches and crystal clear notes distinguish this performance. With the oboe player placed at the side of the stage, the interaction of musical phrases between oboe and voice is absorbing. The Act 2 closing aria Torbido in volto e nero (DVD 2, tr.14) could perhaps have benefited from stronger dynamics. The outstanding runs and trills, together with controlled coloratura, never turn the vocal display into a personal tour de force. It remains within role and part of the overall performance of the opera, not a ‘Caffarelli stand alone and admire me’ aria.
Lucia Cirillo (Emirena) brings a warm tone with a soupçon of cream. She needs her telling facial expressions to accompany her character, pushed from Farnaspe to Adriano and back again with a hell-raising father. Good acting, expressive recitatives, coloured low notes and delightful diminuendo, mark a distinguished performance. Her voice and that of dell’Oste balance so well in the only duet.
Nicole Heaston (Sabina) earns the strongest audience applause for her aria Chi soffre senza planto (DVD1 tr.12). Rejected by Adriano, manipulated by Aquilio, she needs that acting and vocal versatility so well shown here. Great breath control for some deliciously long-held ringingly clear high notes which she can send floating around the auditorium; all that with excellent coloratura, of the non-firework variety, but no less satisfying for that.
Whilst not having quite the heft to power out his arias, Stefano Ferrari (Osroa), as the attempted havoc-wreaking Parthian, is a convincing character. Determined delivery with cogent stage movement, a timbre that is easy on the ear with some light colouring enrich his performance.
Two rousing arias for Aquilio are seized by Francesca Lombardi which she makes very much her own. Strong across all her register with vocal leaps to mid-note, energetic delivery and packed emotion.
I wish that I could muster the same enthusiasm for the intermezzo. For me the parody has lost much of its effect with the theatrical changes over the centuries. Livietta, cross dressed as a Frenchman, seeks revenge on petty thief Tracollo, cross-dressed as a pregnant woman. Livietta rejects Tracollo’s marriage offer. In the second part, Tracollo is disguised as an astrologer, a disguise that Livietta sees through. After more posturing, they reconcile. The music is ‘pure Pergolesi’, fresh, vibrant and tuneful: the singing and acting persuasive. The more experienced Monica Bacelli as Livietta and Carlo Lepore as Tracollo are on fine form. Lepore’s first act aria Ecco il povero Tracollo (DVD1 tr.27) shows his voice to good effect: not overwhelming but a deep colour over a wide register. Bacelli’s opening aria Vi sto ben (DVD1 tr.21) is sung with a fresh vibrancy. She brings a smooth tone, some gentle colouring and a deep sense of comic timing. Their duets are classic of this genre.
Both productions are excellently paced with a crisp, cogent, expressive Accademia. The intermezzo needs no set – it runs front of curtain, down the auditorium centre aisle and in and around the orchestra pit. That for the opera is a neat layout of ‘stones’ facilitating characters to overhear, or hide from, events front of stage. The prison is neatly depicted by descending curtains of chains. There is some obvious symbolism with a caged canary and a free flying raptor. As you can see from the cover above that the Romans are conventionally garbed. The Parthians are in muted colours. All very satisfactory and captured by effective camera work.
The DVD menus have a list of tracks, but the booklet does not. There is no libretto. The subtitles are more than adequate. The two discs divide easily: the first with act 1 of the opera, part 1 of the intermezzo and the ‘bonus’; the second with acts 2 and 3 of the opera separated by part 2 of the intermezzo. The booklet contains articles on the birth of opera seria, Pergolesi and a detailed synopsis. As far as I can ascertain this is the only DVD of this opera.
A CD recorded at the same theatre some 25 years previously (Bongiovanni GB 2078/79/80-2) is still available. The coloratura is more dramatic with singers with more heft but the diction suffers as a result. The recording is good but is now showing its years. There is an accompanying libretto including the text of the omissions from that production. Careful analysis can show the variations and omissions from this DVD production. But it matters not a jot. The performance is all and on this DVD it is benchmark standard.