Rare Veracini Opera Highlighted by Vivica Genaux


 Veracini: Adriano in Siria, Europa Galante, Fabio Biondi (conductor), Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid, 26.1.2015 (JMI) Concert Version

Adriano: Sonia Prina
Farnaspe: Vivica Genaux
Emirena: Roberta Invernizzi
Idalma: Lucia Cirillo
Sabina: Kristina Hammarström
Osroa: Ugo Guagliardo

The program of Centro Nacional de Difusión Musical (CNDM) has become a must for music lovers. Its director, Antonio Moral, has managed to convert the Baroque Universe series into a meeting point for opera lovers. A few months ago we enjoyed Handel’s Alcina with Joyce DiDonato as the protagonist and, more recently, Steffani’s Niobe, Regina di Tebe had a great success. Now it’s the turn of a rarity by the little-known Italian composer Francesco Maria Veracini. These operas all require as conditio sine qua non to be performed by excellent orchestras and casts, and the CNDM accomplishes that time and again.

 Veracini (1690-1768) was a Florentine composer and violinist who enjoyed a great reputation in his day and produced important musical works, including some 50 operas. Today the compositions by Veracini, a contemporary of Vivaldi and Handel, are mostly forgotten, and only the interest of Fabio Biondi (also a violinist) is helping us rediscover some of his works.

 There are more than 50 operas with the title Adriano in Siria. This particular one, as did many other versions, has a libretto by Pietro Metastasio, and it was premiered in London under the direction of Veracini at violin, with a superb cast that included soprano Francesca Cuzzoni (Emirena) and the famous castrati Sinesino (Adriano) and Farinelli (Farnaspe). It’s an interesting work with some brilliant passages for singers, but it lacks the genius that made Handel and Vivaldi authentic musical references of the time.

 The libretto is quite tricky and of little interest. Emperor Adriano has just defeated the Parthians in Syria, and although he is promised to Roman princess Sabina, he has fallen in love with Emirena, daughter of the defeated king, Osroa. Meanwhile, Emirena is in love with Prince Farnaspe, who also loves her. The plot gets more complicated with the arrival of Sabina, who is struggling to recover Adriano’s love. Add to this the figure of King Osroa, thirsty for revenge, and Idalma, Emirena’s confidant, who is in love with Adriano and pulling strings like an Iago to achieve her goal. In the end, Adriano and Sabina will marry, as will Emirena and Farnaspe, while Osroa and Idalma will be forgiven by Adriano as if he were the clement Tito.

 Fabio Biondi presented this opera a little over a year ago in Krakow with Europa Galante and an almost identical cast to the one in Madrid. He offered a very good reading here, supporting the singers at all times and drawing a great performance from the excellent Europa Galante.

 Vivica Genaux in the role of Farnaspe, the true protagonist of the opera, had no less than six arias, two in each act. Ms. Genaux stole the show, receiving ovations and cheers after the most difficult aria, Amor, dover, rispetto, where she was particularly outstanding.

 I should also mention the performances of Sonia Prina (Adriano) and Roberta Invernizzi (Emirena). Ms. Prina is an irreplaceable contralto in the baroque opera repertoire, and she proved it once more. Ms. Invernizzi sang with gusto, even if her top notes are not always under full control.

 Mezzo soprano Lucia Cirillo was very convincing as Idalma, vocally impeccable, with a well-handled and attractive voice. Kristina Hammarström was efficient as Sabina, but Ugo Guagliardo offered a rather coarse voice as Osroa.


José Mª Irurzun

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  1. Ms. Hammarström was ‘new’ to the cast in Valencia and Madrid, as well: Sabina was sung in Kraków and Vienna by Romina Basso.

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