Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Salieri
LABELS: Ambroisie
ALBUM TITLE: Salieri – La grotta di Trofonio
WORKS: La grotta di Trofonio
PERFORMER: Olivier Lallouette, Raffaella Milanesi, Marie Arnet, Nikolaï Schukoff, Mario Cassi, Carlo Lepore; Choeur de L’Opéra de Lausanne; Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: AMB 9986
Now unfairly stigmatised (due to Pushkin and the film Amadeus) as Mozart’s sinister Nemesis, Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) enjoyed the more successful career as an opera composer. His comedy Trofonio’s Cave, written to a clever libretto by Giambattista Casti, was staged at Vienna’s Burgtheater in October 1785, just a few months before Figaro debuted there, and kept its place in the repertory for 30 years. If posterity gave the palm to Mozart, his contemporaries preferred Salieri.

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And indeed the Italian’s attractive score to this text describing the effects of entering a magic cave upon two pairs of lovers – one quiet and earnest, the other noisy hedonists – is full of good things. There’s a genuine melodic gift on display, and Salieri’s scoring is consistently inventive. More surprising are the pre-echoes in the work of Don Giovanni (1787) and especially Così fan tutte (1790). The music for the magician Trofonio and his spirits is striking and much of the remainder appealingly lively.

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This is an extremely worthwhile revival, presented orchestrally in the vivid colours of Les Talens Lyriques under the invigorating direction of Christophe Rousset, and with a strong cast of young singers who are all musically and dramatically alert. Documentation includes a DVD featuring useful information on the piece and its stage production in Lausanne, of which this set is a souvenir. Over-elaborate packaging is a small demerit to a set that reminds us that if Mozart’s rivals lacked his genius, there was no shortage of talent around. George Hall