ALMEIDA La Spinalba • Marcos Magalhães, cond; Luís Rodrigues (Arsenio); Cátia Moreso (Dianora); Ana Quintans (Spinalba); Fernando Guimarães (Ippolito); Inês Madeira (Elisa); Joana Seara (Vespina); Mário AlvesRead more (Leandro); João Fernandes (Togno); Os Músicos do Tejo (period instruments) • NAXOS 8.660319-21 (3 CDs: 206:51)
Francisco António de Almeida (c.1702-c.1755) is said to have been the first composer to write an Italian opera performed in Portugal (which must be one of the most arcane categories in historical list-making, exceeded only by the category of composers who are thought to have died in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755). Mainly a church musician, he was sent to Rome to improve his craft, and may have become music master of the Portuguese Chapel Royal in the mid-to-late-1720s. La Spinalba (1739), a comic opera on an anonymous libretto, was his third stage-piece.
On the one hand, the story is a typical comic opera cliché of the period of young lovers trying to sort out their own mistakes for themselves and not doing a particularly good job. The adults and other relatives are no help either. The title character is trying to escape the awareness of her father (Arsenio) and step-mother (Dianora) and is unhappy about her faithless lover (Ippolito). She does this dressed as a man. Her cousin (Elisa) has her own faithless lover (Leandro) to deal with, and a servant (Vespina). Leandro has a somewhat confused servant (Togno). Arsenio, dressed as a sailor, does seem to go mad in the middle of things and Togno, dressed as a doctor, does try to cure him. In fact, everyone seems to spend a lot of time dressed as someone else.
On the other hand, the details of this story are actually quite funny and, though long, the whole opera moves quickly. This is helped by the lively, but not rushed, conducting of Magalhães. He is assisted in this by the quick responsiveness of his own orchestra and in no little way by fine singing and vocal acting. I particularly enjoyed hearing Ana Quintans as Spinalba, who, alas, hardly gets much to do in the opera, and the Elise of Inês Madeira is sonorous. A great deal of the low comedy revolves around Togno, and João Fernandes has the part down to a T. One of the pleasures of this recording, however, is that the singers are well matched in terms of the evenness of casting and well differentiated by their vocal qualities. It would be invidious to pick among them, for all are good.
There is not much other music by de Almeida available on recording: ArkivMusic lists a Beatus vir on an Archiv reissue, and an aria, “A quell leggiadro volto” on Dynamic (both listed under “Almeida”). This recording is open with good balances, and is to be recommended for anyone curious about the lively suburbs of early opera. The one caveat, however, is that at the time of this writing, Naxos did not have the libretto available online, though the box claims it is.
La Spinalbaby Francisco A. de Almeida Performer:
Inês Madeira (Mezzo Soprano),
Joana Seara (Soprano),
Ana Quintans (Soprano),
Joao Fernandes (Bass),
Luis Rodrigues (Baritone),
Cátia Moreso (Mezzo Soprano),
Fernando Guimaraes (Tenor),
Mário Alves (Tenor)
Os Músicos do Tejo
Period: Baroque Written: by 1739 Date of Recording: 2011
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
marvelous May 10, 2013By kalliopi l. (tulsa, OK)See All My Reviews"I didn't know of the composer De Almeida. The opera is very beautiful and a mirror of music of its time. A must to buy it."Report Abuse