Keiser: Opera arias and instrumental works

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COMPOSERS: Keiser
LABELS: Dabringhaus und Grimm Reflections
WORKS: Opera arias and instrumental works
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Scholl (soprano); La Ricordanza
CATALOGUE NO: MDG 505 1037-2
Several attempts have been made on disc to breathe new life into the operas of Reinhard Keiser. One of them, Croesus (Harmonia Mundi), was outstandingly successful, a happy conjunction of a fine score and a stylish performance. Der geliebte Adonis (The Beloved Adonis) does not quite measure up to it on either count, yet there is sufficient of interest both in the music and in its execution to warrant a cautiously enthusiastic report. Keiser dominated the Hamburg opera scene between 1697, when Adonis was first performed, and 1717, resuming activities there some six years later. Christian Postel’s plot centres around Ovid’s celebrated account of the love affair between Adonis and Venus, who, in this version of the story is jealously watched over by Mars. Postel’s libretto is very long-winded and not well-sustained; but it offered Keiser the opportunity to provide over three-and-a-half hours of music, much of which, especially in Act III, is of enormous charm and variety. The score is a stylistic melting pot containing French and Italian ingredients as well as those of the German Lied. Some of the most beguiling music belongs to the minor roles – ‘Klagt, ihr Nymphen’ (Act III, Scene 9) brings to mind Purcell, and is among the most memorable of the arias. If the entire piece seems a daunting prospect, fear not, since arias from four of Keiser’s operas, including Adonis – though the booklet wrongly attributes one of these arias to a non-existent fourth act – appear on a single disc, sung with accomplishment and charm by Elisabeth Scholl with La Ricordanza. But the other offers a much more satisfying picture of Keiser’s ability as a dramatic composer. Nicholas Anderson

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