On the dark side of fame awaits the slide into obscurity. That’s certainly true for a number of operas that, while popular and highly lucrative during their composers‘ lifetime, soon followed their creators into the shadowy realm of oblivion. Operas, for example, that only ever get mentioned in connection with some much more famous sibling. Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s Don Giovanni – premiered half a year before Mozart’s masterpiece – is such an example, as is Ruggero Leoncavallo’s La Boheme and George Bizet’s Djamileh, widely considered the predecessor of Carmen. Other operas just do not stand out among other works by a composer – Jules Massenet’s operas for example are hardly a footnote of music history, his opera Therese, a thoroughly forgotten work, however, is. Two examples for works that are scarcely performed or even known outside of what is now the Czech Republic are also included in this collection of Opera Rarities on ORFEO: Antonin Dvorak’s last opera Armida and Zdenek Fibich’s Sarka.
Containing radio performance recordings of six works by Dvorak, Massenet, Leoncavallo, Bizet, Gazzaniga, and Fibich mentioned often in histories of music but almost never on the bill, this is a box certainly precious for those who love opera.
– Classical Music Daily (Giuseppe Pennisi)