Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo
Leonor Bonilla, Eleonora Bellocci (soprano), Marina Comparato (mezzo-soprano), Joshua Stewart, Mert Sungu (tenor); Gorecki Chamber Choir, Krakow; Virtuosi Brunensis/Pietro Rizzo
Naxos 8574282 58:02 mins
The custom of commissioning music for a wedding is now rare indeed (though we should not overlook Allegra e Boris, a piece written by Hans Werner Henze for Boris Johnson’s first marriage). Historically, however, the practice had a long history. The earliest surviving opera, Peri’s Euridice, was composed for the nuptials of Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici. Over two centuries later, Rossini was commissioned to mark the alliance of another pair of powerful French and Italian families, when the Duc de Berry married the Neapolitan Princess Maria Carolina in 1816.
The result was the stage cantata Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo, a series of tableaux in which the gods toast the marriage of the mortal Peleus and the nymph Thetis. As was the convention at the time, Rossini recycled liberally: none of the music was entirely new, and much of it would be used again. Though the work is a ‘rarity’, parts of it may be more familiar than you expect.
This is a live recording, with audible coughs, bangs and page-turns, but the performance itself fizzes with exuberance. Mert Süngü, a tenor in the Flórez vein, brings great expressive ardour to the role of Peleo, and Eleonora Bellocci is his vocally radiant bride. The deities perform their musical acrobatics with agility and dramatic commitment: Leonor Bonilla gives a stand-out performance as Cerere. Treat yourself to this disc if you fancy a bag of Rossini bonbons: good tunes, little recit, and all in at under an hour.