Paer: Sofonisba – highlights

COMPOSERS: Paer
LABELS: Opera Rara
PERFORMER: Jennifer Larmore, Paul Nilon,Rebecca Evans, Mirco Palazzi, ColinLee, Lucy Crowe; Geoffrey MitchellChoir; Philharmonia Orchestra/Marco Guidarini

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Ferdinando Paer was the composer who set the same libretto as Beethoven was to use for his opera Leonore (which eventually became Fidelio).

An almost exact contemporary of Beethoven’s, Paer wrote many operas in different genres, and Sofonisba is merely one that Opera Rara has selected to put his virtues on parade.

This disc of highlights is accompanied by an extensive essay on the composer and his works, and we are given the complete libretto in Italian and English, with the excerpts we hear highlighted in dark blue.

The small team of soloists is distinguished, but Jennifer Larmore, in the title role, is no longer the lovely singer she was a decade ago, though she still has plenty of technique and expressive power.

Paul Nilon, an excellent tenor whom we hear too little of on disc, is admirable in a lachrymose way. And Rebecca Evans, as his rival for Sofonisba, provides the most beautiful singing, though it is hard to remember that she is taking the part of a bellicose man.

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The music is reasonably attractive and almost tuneful, but I doubt whether anyone will wish that the whole opera had been recorded.