Notes and Editorial Reviews
Juan Bautista Otero, cond; Anna Maria Panzarella (
); Céline Ricci (
); Marina Comparato (
); Sunhae Im (
); Agustín Prunell-Friend (
); Mariví Blasco (
); Royal C Op
RCOC 800 (3 CDs: 174:35
Text, no Translation)
Domingo Terradellas (1713–1751) was born in Barcelona, but moved in 1732 to Naples, where he studied with Francesco Durante at the Poveri di Gesù Cristo conservatory. His subsequent output was split between sacred choral works and operas, both noted for an arresting use of contrasts and innovation. Rousseau reported in his 1753
Lettre sur la musique française
that a few years earlier Terradellas had expressed shame over his motets, with their “labored, grandly careless choruses. I loved to create noise; now I try to make music,” or so Rousseau claims he said, though the writer was part of a lengthy tradition that put their own sentiments into the mouths of others, after the latter conveniently died. How Terradellas did die has never been satisfactorily explained, though the old standby—murder by a musical rival, in this case, Nicolò Jommelli, who supposedly had the body dumped in the Tiber—has been completely discounted as the usual rumor mill at work.
Yet it is possible Terradellas uttered the sentiments Rousseau echoes, if not the words. Certainly his operas quest far after novel effects.
is an opera of musical transition, and the composer displays great interest in the
, espousing the then-current taste for Italianate simplification. He sometimes employs active bass lines, but elsewhere reduces them to reiterative rhythmic figures on the strings. Sighing figures, graceful melodies of short compass, and simplified harmonies point to the influence of Hasse (who wrote his own
for Venice in 1730) rather than the more advanced idiom of Jommelli. A good example is “Bramar di perdere,” that moves through three-chord harmony. The latter part of its theme is a complacent turn on A?-B?-G-B?-A?, that my ungrateful ear instantly recalls as part of the chorus, “Braid the raven hair” from
. Sullivan no doubt perceived it as an elegant, feminine turn, but Terradellas places it in the mouth of a character singing of her willingness to sacrifice her emotional attachment to Prince Artaserse and lose her lover when he takes the throne. I think Sullivan had the better fit.
Yet again, Terradellas is capable of chromatic harmonies and swift harmonic movement, with abrupt changes in color, dynamics, and meter that hearken back to the Baroque. If this opera is typical of his output, he appears to have thrived on frequent touches of the unexpected that in many cases—it must be said—substituted for thematic distinction or dramatic appropriateness. Thus Artaserse’s confident, gentle “Se miro quel volto” starts out with a solo harp limning the melody before the violins and a pair of recorders join in separately over the lower strings pizzicato. The central section of this
aria turns from F? Major to Minor, with a pathos-laden passage. Or again, Artaserse’s “Deh respirar lasciatemi,” in a moment of great emotional turmoil, stays in E Minor throughout its length, but its hectic, rushed theme acquires a much slower tempo and a less aggressive rhythmic accompaniment (along with increased poignancy) in its central section. Nor are these examples of ingenuity atypical. Even the most undistinguished arias contain some distinctive feature that lifts them out of the mundane, however slight.
The performances are generally very good. Anna-Maria Panzarella has a pleasant tone that opens up powerfully after a weak chest register. Mariví Blasco is better still, her voice more focused and better balanced, with a bright, gleaming top (the martial sounding “Allor che irato freme”). Sunhae Im’s warmer tone and refined cantabile make for an attractive contrast. She also bows her voice for a greater dynamic range, and possesses good coloratura (“L’augellin ch’è in lacci stretto”). Mezzo Marina Comparato makes good use of a trill in a voice that steps easily across the notes. She phrases with distinction, though there’s an occasional width to the vibrato that may be no more than a bad patch, or a bad day. Her decorations in
repeats are well chosen.
Céline Ricci displays a slight insecurity to the tone and difficult movement across the break. She manages leaps well, however, enunciates clearly, and doesn’t hold back when faced with an emotional maelstrom—such as during “Fra cento affanni e cento,” when Arbace is faced with the knowledge that his father is a regicide who has just given him the murder weapon before running off. Agustín Prunell-Friend’s rather hard tone is more than compensated for by accuracy, good, clean runs, and fine breath support (“Voglio che tu l’adori”). All performers make the most dramatically of the occasionally lengthy and lusterless recitative. The Royal Chamber Opera Company offers disciplined, enthusiastic playing under Juan Bautista Otero’s well-paced and supportive direction.
Good liner notes are provided, with a synopsis in English; but the libretto is supplied in the booklet only in the original Italian, with Spanish and French translations. Recommended, then. This is an interesting opera by a forgotten composer whose work clearly bears up well under the revival of interest.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Artaserse by Domingo Terradellas
Marivì Blasco (Soprano),
Marina Comparato (Mezzo Soprano),
Anna Maria Panzarella (Soprano),
Agustin Prunell-Friend (Tenor),
Sunhae Im (Soprano),
Celine Ricci (Soprano)
Juan Bautista Otero
Royal Chamber Opera Company Barcelona
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