First recording of Scarlatti’s first opera

You may know the name “Scarlatti”.

Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), wrote those fascinating sonatas for keyboard, but he’s not the only Scarlatti by any means. He had an older brother Pietro Scarlatti (1679-1750) who had some success as a composer.

Domenico’s father was Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 –1725), composer of over 60 operatic creations. They took various forms such as “dramma per musica” or “commedia per musica” or “melodramma” or “favola boschereccia” (woodland fairytale): and that doesn’t exhaust the list.

Alessandro’s very first opera was Gli equivoci nel sembiante which might translate roughly as “Mistaken Identities” although I saw an article that would call it “Folly in Love,” a pastoral comedy (identified as a “dramma per musica”). Dating from 1679, it’s the creation of a teenager, when Alessandro was not even 19 years old.

And it’s also very early in the history of opera.

  • Monteverdi’s operas in Florence and Venice are from the first half of the 17th century, La favola d’Orfeo (aka L’Orfeo) from 1607, L’incoronazione di Poppea from 1643
  • The mid-century Roman operas from composers such as Luigi Rossi & Francesco Cavalli created a new comic-opera style
  • In Paris the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully may have been an influence upon Rossi.

My reading suggests that Alessandro may have been exposed to & influenced by the Roman operas of Cavalli & Rossi.

I’ve been listening to the opera, in what may be the first complete recording of the work, created for us by artists right here in Southern Ontario:

  • Capella Intima
  • The Gallery Players of Niagara
  • Nota Bene Baroque Players

scarlatti_cast_2

The members of Capella Intima sing the roles in the opera:

  • Tenor Bud Roach: Eurillo, a shepherd
  • Mezzo-soprano Vicki St Pierre: Clori, a nymph
  • Soprano Sheila Dietrich: Lisetta, Clori’s younger sister
  • Baritone David Roth: Armindo, a stranger, and Eurillo’s double

Bud Roach is also the Musical Director for the project.COVER

I’ve been driving around with this CD in my car, going through the opera a few times. I’m floored by what I’m hearing from that gifted teenager Alessandro in this new recording. The playing is of a historically informed style, wonderfully transparent & clear with a small ensemble that plays with great energy.

With comedy, especially one involving visual mix-ups we lose something when we only have an audio recording. I wish I could see this performed onstage. Roach is especially apt for comedy as we’ve seen in other performances here in the GTA with his Hammer Baroque or working with the Toronto Consort. He is often cast in comic roles both because of his clear light voice, but also because of his willingness to play. Sometimes he’s singing with great care and a fidelity to the score but at other moments we’re into something resembling the bold improvisatory spirit of Commedia dell’Arte, a style likely influencing Italian theatre & the operas of this time. Dietrich’s clear high sound is a lovely contrast to the richness of St Pierre’s voice. Roth’s lovely full sound is a welcome addition.

I hope we can look forward to seeing this performed live by this talented group sometime soon. In the meantime click on this link to order the double CD from Naxos.

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