Scarlatti: Carlo Re d'Alemagna
Alessandro Scarlatti’s three-act opera Carlo Re d’Alemagna is a late work. It was premiered at Naples in 1716 where the composer was doing a second stint as Maestro di cappella to the Viceroy. The text is an adaptation of one by Francesco Silvani which had already been set by several composers. In the manner famously popular with Neapolitan audiences, the serious business of wicked King Lotario’s covetous claim to the throne after the death of Queen Giuditta’s husband is seasoned with the lighter touches of opera buffa. Intrigue and deceit play their part, further contributing to an abundant diversity that is mirrored in one of Scarlatti’s notably rich scores. Conductor and solo violinist, Fabio Biondi has transcribed the music but since nothing of this is explained, it is impossible to know exactly what he has done.
The musical rewards in this dramma are plentiful. There is a refreshing variety among the generous sequence of arias. Many of them are rhythmically and melodically engaging, and Scarlatti’s lively responses to textual images are affecting. Indeed, on this showing it is surprising that the work is nowadays so little known. The cast of soloists is dramatically effective and mainly pleasing. Contralto Romina Basso with her clearly defined and steady declamation makes an imposing Lotario while soprano Roberta Invernizzi’s Giuditta sparkles with personality. Both roles involve coloratura which they deliver with accuracy and aplomb. It is, though, Norwegian mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland’s Prince Adalgiso that most consistently touches my sensibilities as in her ‘Se la bella tortorella’ (Act II) and the eloquent simile aria with two oboes ‘Qual stella’ (Act III). Scarlatti’s score includes a handful of duets and a well-sustained terzetto.