A Pleasing Concert Version of a Seldom-Heard Scarlatti Opera

SpainSpain Scarlatti, Cain, overo il primo omicidio (concert version): Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini (conductor), Madrid Auditorio Nacional, 20.3.2016. (JMI)


Cain: Sonia Prina
Abel: Monica Piccinini
Adam: Carlo Allemano
Eve: Roberta Invernizzi
God: Aurelio Schiavoni
Lucifer: Salvo Vitale

Alessandro Scarlatti is one of the main composers of the Italian Baroque, but even though he wrote nearly 100 operas and almost 40 oratorios, much of his work has fallen into oblivion. His professional life was spent in Palermo, Naples and Rome, and this oratorio is one of the few works written for Venice, where it was premiered in 1706. It is a well-built work musically, although it lacks the inspiration of a genius like Bach or Handel. It contains, besides recitatives and arias, no less than five duets. Somewhat surprisingly, the character of God is sung by a counter-tenor.

One has few occasions to attend a concert  ̶  still less a stage performance  ̶  of  work by Scarlatti. In recent years only La Griselda has been performed, although Cain was done in Mainz in 2012 in a production by Tattjana Gürbaca. As for me, the only Scarlatti opera I’ve had the occasion to see was Il Trionfo dell’Onore, and that was more than 30 years ago.

The version here, played by Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano, was correct, though I missed a more imaginative conducting from Mr. Alessandrini. I was reminded of some of his colleagues, whose readings too are always correct but lack that something special which puts them in a special category.

Cain’s character is the real protagonist: not only does he give his name to the opera, but he sings five arias and three duets with his brother, Abel. He was played by Italian mezzo soprano Sonia Prina, well known to all opera fans, who was the strongest in the cast, shining in the aria “Perchè mormora il ruscello. 

Soprano Monica Piccinini was Abel, and I did not find her convincing in pure vocal terms. She is a very light soprano, a soubrette rather. Tenor Carlo Allemano was well-suited to the part of Adam, although his voice is not particularly strong. Soprano Roberta Invernizzi did well as Eve, and countertenor Aurelio Schiavoni was appropriate in the role of God. Finally, bass Salvo Vitale was a sonorous Lucifer. 

José M. Irurzun

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