Mozart: Lucio Silla / Netopil, Saccà, Massis, Et Al

Release Date: 10/30/2007
Label: Dynamic
Catalog Number: DYN-CDS524
Conductor: Tomas Netopil
Number of Discs: 2

Physical Format:

In Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews

MOZART Lucio Silla Tomáš Netopil, cond; Roberto Saccà ( Lucio Silla ); Annick Massis ( Giunia ); Monica Bacelli ( Cecilio ); Veronica Cangemi ( Lucio Cinna ); Julia Kleiter ( Celia ); Stefano Ferrari ( Aufidio ); Teatro La Fenice O & Ch DYNAMIC 524 (2 CDs: 143:42 Text and Translation) Live: Venice 6/2006

This CD of Mozart’s early opera Lucio Silla arrived as I was reading Fortune’s Favorite , the third volume in Colleen McCullough’s multivolume series of Roman history rendered as novels. McCullough fictionalizes the details but remains fairly true to the actual events surrounding Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix. Mozart’s librettist Giovanni de Gamerra not only transforms the name Lucius Sulla into Lucio Silla, but also completely fictionalizes the plot and characters. The actual events surrounding the real Roman general Sulla are rich in intrigue and drama, the fictionalized opera plot is hokum, turning history into an allegory of good overcoming evil. In the case of Sulla/Silla, truth is not only stranger than fiction, but a lot more interesting. In the opera, Silla loves Giunia (Marius’s daughter), but Giunia loves an exiled senator Cecilio. Silla uses his authority to separate the lovers, but in the end Silla becomes the nice man and lets them marry. The historical Sulla had four wives (none of whom appear in this opera), but admitted his life-long love was the actor Metrobius, with whom Sulla retired to his villa near Puteoli. Incidentally, Gamerra’s libretto was later used by J. C. Bach, and Handel wrote the opera Silla with a different, but equally fictionalized plot. (Another bit of trivia I unearthed concerning librettist Gamerra was his rumored taste for necrophilia.)

The teenage Mozart was excited about the commission to write this opera and enthusiastically plunged into the project. In spite of severe time constraints, he still worked with his singers to create arias that showed their talents to maximum advantage. At the last moment the singer engaged for the role of Silla had to be replaced. The new singer was not as good as the former one, so two of the role’s four arias were cut. The roles of Celia and Cinna were expanded, thus throwing the musical balance from the central character to the supporting roles. The opera was very successful anyway. It is also a very long opera. Uncut it runs around three and a half hours, and at its premiere it ran over six hours with the inclusion of intermission ballets (the ballet music probably not composed by Mozart). This recording has a number of cuts, as does an original-instrument Teldec recording from 1989 that even goes so far as to totally eliminate the role of Aufidio. I am only aware of one complete recording, which was released by Philips as part of their monumental everything-Mozart-ever-wrote project.

Unlike the two earlier releases that were studio recorded, this Dynamic CD was recorded during performances at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. A small amount of stage noise is present, some applause is heard, but neither is bothersome. Over all I found it to be a good performance with some wonderful singing, particularly from Annick Massis in the role of Giunia and Julia Kleiter as Celia. My appreciation for Roberto Saccà (Silla) gained the more I listened to this recording. Peter Schreier, who sings the role in both the Teldec and Philips recordings, has a lovelier voice, but Saccà was more convincing to me as the rough-hewed dictator. Even though an hour’s worth of the score is cut, there is plenty of Mozart’s music to please the ear and leave the listener satisfied that a full evening’s entertainment was presented. Teldec cut four arias (8, 10, 14, 16); La Fenice cuts only two (14 and 16, for Cecilio and Giunia respectively), and trims yards and yards of recitative. Picayune details of the plot are lost, but the result is a very tight performance that has more forward thrust than the complete recording on Philips. A libretto in Italian and English with a brief but interesting essay is included. Photographs of this production reveal that the costuming is a bizarre assortment of styles. If you opt for the DVD on DG, proceed with caution! This may not be a traditional staging. There is another Lucio Silla on the Brilliant Classics label (in assorted packaging) that I have not heard.

FANFARE: David L. Kirk
Works on This Recording
1. Lucio Silla, K 135 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer: Alessandro Zanardi (Cello), Roberto Saccà (Tenor), Stefano Gibellato (Harpsichord), Monica Bacelli (Mezzo Soprano), Stefano Ferrari (Tenor), Veronica Cangemi (Soprano), Julia Kleiter (Soprano), Annick Massis (Soprano)
Conductor: Tomas Netopil
Period: Classical
Written: 1772 ; Milan, Italy
Customer Reviews