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Alessandro MELANI (1639-1703)
L’empio punito (1669) – Dramma per music in three Acts to a libretto by Giovanni Filippo Apolloni based on Filippo Acciaiuoli’s adaptation of El burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de piedra by Tirso de Molina
Atrace – Alessandro Ravasio
Ipomene – Michela Guarrera
Cloridoro – Carlotta Colombo
Atamira – Sabrina Cortese
Acrimante – Mauro Borgioni
Bibi – Giacomo Nanni
Delfa – Alessio Tosi
Tidemo – Riccardo Pisani
Corimbo – Luca Cervoni
Proserpina – Maria Elena Pepi
Demonio – Guglielmo Buonsanti
Due Pastorelle – Maria Elena Pepi, Luca Cervoni
Coro di Stallieri e Diavoli – Luca Cervoni, Riccardo Pisani, Guglielmo Buonsanti
Actors – Gaetano Carbone, Alessandro Gaglio, Valerio Leoni, Guido Targetti
Reate Festival Baroque Ensemble/Alessandro Quarta
rec. Reate Festival, Teatro di Villa Torlonia, Rome, Italy, 2 October 2019
Director: Cesare Scarton
Video Director: Maxim Derevianko
All Regions. Picture-1080i; Audio: PCM Stereo 2.0; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1;
DYNAMIC Blu-ray 57871 [136 mins]

Alessandro Melani was a Baroque composer whose life and work are roughly contemporary to Lully but his name has not remained in the musical consciousness as the French composer's has. This opera had its premiere in Borgo in 1669 with Queen Christina of Sweden in attendance. It appears to be the first opera to make use of the popular tale of Don Juan, which was at that time beginning to take Europe by storm in the form of books, plays, burlesques etc. One could easily miss that association on watching this opera, as Melani and his librettist have changed the names and location to classical antiquity, in this case Macedonia, so that the relation between the figure of Don Juan, his servant and the statue are much less clear than we are accustomed to in Mozart’s opera. The opera proceeds at a fairly rapid pace, and lasts just over 2 hours which is rather short in comparison to any of Lully’s or Cavalli’s operas.

Cesare Scarton’s elegant production makes a very good case for the opera. The stage is a series of uneven platforms that resemble rock formations combined with some moveable translucent screens which frequently shift to provide a different mood to the scenes. The costuming is all in modern dress which in this case seems to help keep the action from becoming bogged down. The stage direction never lags and keeps up with the fast pace of the score. I found the production side of things to be entirely enjoyable.

The video quality of this Blu-ray disc is excellent but unfortunately the sound is problematic. The singers are quite far from the microphones, setting up a fairly recessed acoustic and providing little definition to the voices. The orchestra then becomes much more prominent within the sound field, especially for the figured bass. It’s a good thing then that Alessandro Quarta and his Baroque Ensemble play the score so splendidly.

Among the singers Sabrina Cortese contributes a lovely lyric soprano that is infused with warmth and a beautiful waif-like appearance as the wronged Altamira. Mauro Borgogoni as her wrongdoer Acrimante is smoulderingly expressive in his vocalizing and he obviously relishes every ruthless moment. Giacomo Nanni as the servant Bibi has a vibrant bass and a very appealing stage presence in his comic relief role. Alesio Tosi is delightful as the travesti nurse Delfa. He sings with engaging tone and for once the comic scenes between himself and Mr Nanni are enacted in a refreshingly natural sense rather than being exaggerated. Michela Guarrera possesses a sensuous mezzo of elegant line as Ipomena and she blends beautifully with the higher mezzo timbre of the excellent Carlotta Colombo as Clorindo. As the infatuated and supportive Atrace, Alessandro Ravasio reveals a fine-hued bass combined with sensitive phrasing which completely justifies him in getting the girl at the end of the opera.

There is a great deal to enjoy in what will likely be the only video of this opera for a long time to come; if only it weren’t undermined by the somewhat deficient sound.

Mike Parr

Previous review (DVD): Curtis Rogers


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