Gluck Il Trionfa Di Clelia
On May 14, 1763, Bologna’s Teatro Comunale opened with the world premiere of Il trionfo di Clelia. Completed a year after Orfeo ed Euridice, Gluck’s setting of Metastasio’s story of romantic fidelity put to the test against the background of the Siege of Rome, was tailored both to display the new theatre’s capacity for spectacle (Act II calls for the collapse of a bridge and a heroic swim across the rising waters of the Tiber) and a cast hand-picked for their fioritura (embellishment of a melodic line). Thus while musicologists may cherish Il trionfo di Clelia for its pivotal role in the composer’s progress from the gilded cage of opera seria to the grand austerity of his reform operas, the rest of us can enjoy an inventive score.
Giuseppe Sigismondi de Risio’s performance with Armonia Atenea is one of tireless dynamism, the trumpets, oboes and kettle drums parade-ground smart in the overture and tempestuous sinfonias. Gluck’s bravura instrumentation extends to unusual effects, using horns to add a subtle blush of colour to Orazio’s limpid serenade ‘Saper ti basti’, while the styles employed range from coloratura showpieces to concise French-accented palate-cleansers. With the possible exception of Vassilis Kavayas’s Porsenna (too much the cartoon villain), the casting favours clear, agile voices, the sweetest of which is Burçu Uyar’s Larissa, the warmest Mary-Ellen Nesi’s Orazio, the most heroic Hélène Le Corre’s Clelia and Irini Karaianni’s Tarquinio.