Raffaele Pe, Rafaella Milanesi, Roberta Invernizzi, Giorgio Celenza, Alberto Allegrezza (voices); Auser Musica/Carlo Ipata
Glossa GCD923522 186 mins (3 discs)
Alessandro Melani has been surprisingly undernourished by artists and record companies, so his opera masterpiece L’empio punito(The impious one punished) is all the more welcome on disc. Alessandro was the youngest of three musically-gifted brothers. Born in 1639 he held several prestigious appointments in Rome and was able to number Ferdinando de’ Medici and the abdicated Queen Christina of Sweden among his patrons. Christina, along with an assorted array of princes and prelates, was present at the premiere of L’empio punito in 1669, but would seem to have become inattentive since, when asked her opinion of the concluding act confused it with another piece altogether.
L’empio punito is the earliest opera to take the Don Juan story as its subject, but the libretto by Filippo Acciaiuoli differs significantly from the famous Da Ponte piece over a century later. This live recording, with applause, brings Melani’s music to life with vigour and sensibility. The singing is never less than competent, and the instrumental ensemble of strings, recorders and a colourful continuo of lutes, harp and harpsichords both stylish and imaginative. Most of the numbers are short, consisting mainly of recitative, arias and ariosos; but there are three instrumental interludes of merit which, together with the aria ‘Piangete occhi’ (Act I), a duet ‘Se d’Amor’ with a sharply defined staccato accompaniment (Act II), and the aria ‘Ti prepara a morte?’ (Act III) provide musical highlights.
In summary, well worth exploring but, alas, the libretto is printed in Italian only and the synopsis in English, French, Italian and German, though clear, is barely adequate.