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# Opera from the Galant & Classical Era #

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Leo K.:

Hasse's "Cleofide". Highlights.

The COMPLETE opera is a listening experience of excitement and beauty, but the advantage of the highlights is, of course, that you need not listen to all of the recitatives, but truthfully I haven't minded even doing that at all. This approach is a great way to give you some idea of the entire opera. Rich and full. It would have to be very difficult to take from four discs of excellent arias and pick the 'best', but I think this recording presents a fair picture of the singers and what they did in 'Cleofide' (still available in the marketplace if you are interested). Anyway since not much unwittingly on his part. There are six main characters in this opera, all of whom perform their characterizations superbly. One may think that with all these basically teble voices, that confusion would exist in the listening process, but the quality of each of them is so unique and so abviously different from one another it does not really present a problem. Those of you who have heard each or all or some of them will easily detect to whom you are listening. For example Visse's male alto voice is a bit rough and reedy whereas Cordier is somooth, becoming one of the most powerful exponents of the Italian operatic style in Germany.

'Cleofide' was first performed in Dresden in September of 1731. Essentially, this work is based on the subject of jealousy, and has in general to do with conquest and the desire to be sole possessor of women and of kingdoms. This story idea is very reminiscent to me of the Gluck opera 'Iphigenie en Tauride'. In that opera the character 'Thoas' could be compared to Alexander in 'Cleofide', and in Purcell's 'Dido and Aeneas' we would have to equate Aeneas to that role, albeit Johann Hasse (1699-1783) studied with Porpora in Naples. He was the first composer to set many of Metastasio's texts, and his music reflects the neo-classical ideal of Metastasio's style. A powerful dramatist, he was renowned for his careful use of the accompanied recitative (this is evident in 'Cleofide'. Hasses's long career covered the period around the middle of the eighteenth century, and his later works reveal attempts at overall unity by means of tonal planning and a reaction against the 'da capo' aria like those of Gluck. In 1734, he became composer for the court of Dresden.

After the wonderful Amadis de Gaule, the opera in french composed by Johann Christian Bach I had to get his Zanaida

Beside Zanaida (posted above), I recently listened to la Clemenza de Scipione, but in term of recorded operas of J.-C. Bach, my clear favorite is this Amadis de Gaule.  There is so much energy in it, it is a truely uplifting moment for me.

Dug out this version of Orfeo ed Euridice with Franco Fagioli as Orfeo and Laurence Equilbey directing the insula orchestra on period instruments

Listening now, after it lingered unopened on my shelves for quite a while:

An opera seria from 1765, premiered in Mannheim, by Neapolitan composer Gian Francesco de Majo.


PS  This has been really interesting and enjoyable!  :)
De Majo was very orginal and innovative and Mozart was very complimentary on his music. And listening to this you can tell why and you will hear little motives and techniques that will sound oddly familiar.
A review on Amazon complains about two things: the fact that this is a "cut" version without the recitatives and the quality of the performance. Well, if you read the notes you'll find that all the recitativi secci were lost. So was the overture, but that has been replaced by one from another opera. I find the performances by the solists and the orchestra more than adequate. Given the quality the music, a star studded performance would obviously do well,  but there is plenty to enjoy even if the orchestpa occasionally sounds a bit "rustic". The opera was written for the court orchestra in Mannheim, so the scoring includes horns - a treat.  :)

Gian Francesco de Majo wrote 17 operas before he succumbed to tuberculosis at 38 years old.
Judging from this recording, record companies have plenty of treasures to dig out.


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