Until recently all traces of Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorio Il martirio di Santa Cecilia had been lost. Discovered in the manuscript collection of the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, near Geneva, this oratorio which had been undiscovered for decades was immediately performed in Zurich. Karl Böhmer (the booklet author) and Oliver Mattern produced the first modern edition of the work. The interpreters on that occasion are again featured on the present recording. This sacred tragedy could rightly be termed one of the most dramatic and mature oratorios of the Roman baroque. Although there are no choruses, the action is portrayed with long recitative dialogues between the protagonists, and the music’s strongest moments come when the recitatives go over into expressive accompagnati, widely ranging ariosi, and affective arias. Like all of Scarlatti’s gloomy, fatalistic oratorios, this work culminates in bloody scenes of murder and martyrdom.
Cecilia Bartoli stars in this ebullient Zurich Opera House production of Rossini’s first French-language comedy opera described by the international press as “pure, unadulterated fun”. A BD from Zurich of the acclaimed production by masters of bel canto comedy, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. Bartoli reminds us of her comic gifts and her naturalness as a stage actor — as well as her total sympathy with the music of Rossini. Muhai Tang conducts the historical performance ensemble La Scintilla, and the cast includes the acclaimed young Mexican tenor Javier Camarena in the title role.
‘Semele’ is presented in Robert Carsen’s stylish modern dress production, originally seen in London, and most recently staged at the Zurich Opera in 2007. The drama tells of the ambition of the beautiful mortal, Semele, who, not satisfied with being Jupiter’s mistress, strives with fatal results to supplant Jupiter’s wife, Juno. Conceived as an oratorio but nowadays presented as a stage drama, it is a superb vehicle for all the principals, not least the substantial title role, which includes such popular arias as ‘Endless pleasure’ and ‘Myself I shall adore’.
Cecilia Bartoli recreates the 1828 triumph of the legendary Maria Malibran - original star and dedicatee of Halévy's "tragi-comedy", Clari. Tracing the love of a callow country-girl for a duplicitous Duke, this hugely entertaining and first-ever modern production of Clari proved the overwhelming hit of the Zurich Opera season. Zurich Opera's own period-instrument orchestra, La Scintilla, under Adam Fischer, contribute a thoroughly researched, stylistically and historically well-informed accompaniment, yet without neglecting the liveliness and spirit of Italian opera.
This recording of La Sonnambula is notable on a number of fronts. It's the first recording of the opera based on a 2004 critical edition of the score that confirms the leading role was indeed written for a mezzo-soprano, although it has been performed by sopranos for much of its history. (Among the first Aminas were the celebrated mezzos Giuditta Pasta and Maria Malibran.) It's also the first recording using period instruments, in this case Orchestra La Scintilla, based at the Basel Opera and conducted by Alessandro de Marchi in an idiomatic and lively reading. And, as the promotional materials trumpet, it's the first recorded collaboration between superstars Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Flórez. Although less hoopla is made of him, the recording also features a superbly lyrical performance by baritone Ildebrando D'Arcangelo.