Porpora's 'Polifemo' at the Bayreuth Baroque Opera Festival
Nicola Porpora was Farinelli’s teacher and rival of Handel and Hasse. One of the most brilliant figures in the musical Baroque, he triggered decisive impulses for the development of opera in the first half of the eighteenth century. He worked in Italy – mostly in his home city of Naples – but also in London, Dresden and Vienna, perhaps not always treating his fellow composers with fairness, but always aspiring towards the development of elemental features of beauty in music. He was an expert in handling the singing voice both as regards training as well as its effective application. At the beginning of 1735 he wrote the opera seria Polifemo for the Opera of the Nobility, which had been set up in the British capital as rival enterprise to Handel’s operatic empire. It was premiered with Farinelli in the role of Aci.
The libretto by Paolo Rolli is based on two well-known Greek myths, both linked to the Cyclops Polyphemus: the story of the nymph Galatea and the shepherd Acis, also with the Cyclops’ meeting with Odysseus, which did not turn out to the one-eyed giant’s advantage. Porpora created music of dynamic expressive power and virtuosity for the colourful scenes, which are as effective today as they were at the time – especially with a top-class ensemble capable of igniting Porpora’s score to glow with new fire.
‘Opera seria’ in three acts by Nicola Antonio Porpora (1686 – 1768)
Libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli
First performance in London,King’s Theatre, 1 February 1735
Recording: September 9 2021 - BAYREUTH BAROQUE FESTIVAL 2021
Director: Olivier Simonnet
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