Pioneering recording of J.C.'s last Italian opera
Molly the Cat | the USA | 09/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This new recording appears to be the first ever to present J.C. Bach's 1778 opera seria "La Clemenza di Scipione" in a form comparable to the original. I say "comparable" because unfortunately the opera is not preserved in a fully complete form: the work was published by John Welcker soon after its London premiere, but Welcker printed only the orchestrated numbers and left out the "recitativo secco" portions, which are here supplied by noted J.C. Bach authority Ernest Warburton.The plot itself suggests comparisons with Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito" (where another noble figure, this time an emperor, pardons an offense) and "Idomeneo" (where Ilia, like Idalba here, attempts to substitute for her beloved as sacrificial victim). Basically, Scipione (Scipio), the Roman general, has conquered Carthage and taken prisoner the princess Idalba. Prince Luceio attempts to ransom her back, but Scipione will have none of it; he wants Luceio to swear allegiance to Rome first, but Luceio refuses. The opera ends happily, however, with Scipione's act of clemency.Much of the music is of great beauty, but I do find Christian Bach to often forgo wringing the potential drama out of a situation in favor of adorning it with pleasant, cantabile melody. Some might call aspects of his setting superficial, and anyone who sets a lament like Idalba's "Confusa, abbandonata" in C major (!!), as J.C. does, certainly lays himself open to the charge. Then again, Christian was not trying to be Verdi or Puccini, but simply to provide his London public with an entertaining evening.The performance, conducted by Hermann Max, is quite good. I do have a few problems with the way Jorg Waschinski alters the melodic line of Luceio's "Parto, ma serbo in mente" to avoid most of the highest notes, singing them an octave lower; since he is an adult male soprano (yes, you read that correctly), such an adaptation may be necessary for him, but it does significantly deform the vocal part, in my opinion. But this is the most serious thing I can quibble with about this recording. Otherwise, those interested in opera or in J.C. Bach's output in general will find this a most rewarding performance all around. Max's ensemble and the singers do justice to this neglected work, and it's to be hoped that their efforts will help to make it less obscure and unknown."
An interesting find
John Weretka | Melbourne, Australia | 11/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This opera first came to my attention in a pirate recording from a festival in Germany, and it is good to see that CPO have been bold enough to commit such a worthwhile work to disc. Although the booklet seems not to say so, this is a live recording.
This is the strongest of the operas I have heard from the later eighteenth century (excluding the Mozart operas), easily putting most of the Haydn operas to shame. Like the Haydn operas, it does suffer from a certain uniformity of expression (most numbers are in a major key, for example), but there are some gifted touches of orchestration, bold bravura arias (including what must become a favourite with sopranos, 'Infelice! In van m'affanno') and stunning use of the chorus, things which don't redeem most of Haydn's works for the stage.
The playing of the orchestra is very lively and competent, and the chorus work is among the highlights of the disc, with rich and impressive tone.
The choice of soloists is a little less successful. Joerg Waschinski does a terrible job of music that is just far too high for him. Markus Schaefer and Hans Joerg Mammel (particularly the latter) are very creditable, although Scipione might have been better played by Uwe Heilmann, who sang Tito in the Hogwood recording of the Mozart opera. Christine Wolff is a little less than lively at times. Linda Perillo does an excellent job with some very difficult music, but the pirate recording mentioned above (presumably from a different performance) has her in much finer form.
I'd recommend this recording to anyone, but it doesn't come without its frustrations...."
Una ópera del Bach de Londres
Ubail Zamora | La Habana, Cuba | 12/19/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Estrenada en el King's Theatre de Londres el 4 de abril de 1778, "La clemenza di Scipione" fue la última de las óperas italianas de Johann Christian Bach. Con un lenguaje metastasiano y una suerte de melodias que nos recuerdan al primer Mozart: "Mitridate", "Lucio Silla"... la obra no contiene arias da capo y los diálogos se reducen para dar una continuidad a la acción que nos envuelve desde la obertura hasta el coro final. Injustamente olvidadas, las óperas del Johann Christian (género que no habia desarrollado ninguno de los Bach antes que él) han sido relegadas a un lugar oscuro en la discografía y sólo ahora se ha visto un interés parcial en recuperarlas. La grabación que nos ocupa es un ejemplo de ello. Tomada de representaciones en vivo del año 2000, esta Clemenza, con un cast suficiente y una magnífica orquesta, nos entrega una grata velada. Del elenco sobresalen la musical Arsinda de Linda Perillo, que en sus difíciles intervenciones vocales: "Confusa, abbandonata", "Infelice! In van m'affanno" y sobre todo "Ah, si vada" muestra su valía . Ambos tenores, Schäfer y Mammel prestan a Scipione y Marzio un canto fluido y, aunque a menor nivel, Wolf y Waschinski, no demeritan el trabajo de sus colegas. Desde el podio, Hermann Max dirige una Das Kleine Konzert inspirada y precisa, desempolvando una partitura que nos llevará a descubrir el mundo teatral de un compositor que en su tiempo gozó de merecida fama."