Sacchini

COMPOSERS: Sacchini
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Sacchini
WORKS: Oedipe à colone
PERFORMER: François Loup, Nathalie Paulin, Robert Getchell, Tony Boutté, Kirsten Blaise; Opera Lafayette Orchestra and Chorus/Ryan Brown
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660196-97
Berlioz was an early admirer of Oedipe à Colone, praising its transparent scoring, dramatic range and, above all, the glorious aria ‘Elle m’a prodigué’. Most music history books, too, will tell you that this is Sacchini’s ‘best opera’ – and if that seems like faint praise today, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Florentine composer was in truth regarded by his contemporaries as one of the most gifted dramatists of the late 18th century.

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Certainly, Oedipe is a piece of considerable charm, with its felicitous blend of Italian lyricism and French elegance. The shadow of Gluck is ever present and there are echoes, too, of Mozart’s Idomeneo. Yet Sacchini’s graceful, mellifluous style is curiously at odds with the dark drama of Sophocles’s tragedy, which is perhaps why the work lost its immense popularity.

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This premiere recording boasts some imposing singing from veteran bass-baritone François Loup in the title role, and strongly characterised supporting soloists. Despite moments when the orchestra sounds weighted down by some rather cumbersome phrasing, the performance manages to capture both the vivacity and the delicacy of the score. Some ‘forgotten masterpieces’ might be best left forgotten but this one delights and surprises. Berlioz wasn’t wrong. Kate Bolton