Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta directed by Luca Ronconi

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Salieri
LABELS: Warner Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Salieri
WORKS: Europa Riconosciuta
PERFORMER: Diana Damrau, Desirée Rancatore, Genia Kühmeier, Daniela Barcellona, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Alessandro Ruggiero; Alessandra Ferri, Roberto Bolle; Coro, Corpo di Ballo e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala/Riccardo Muti; dir. Luca Ronconi (Milan, 2004)
CATALOGUE NO: 9029588998

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This is the first serious opera by Salieri that I have seen and heard, and I am impressed. It is a relatively early work, the libretto of which was passed on to the composer by his close friend Gluck. And listening to any 15 minutes of Europa riconosciuta it would be easy to mistake it for a reform opera by Gluck: there is the same dramatic energy, the nobility of declamation, that we find in the serious works of his maturity. But there is not, unfortunately, quite the memorableness of Gluck’s melodies nor the cumulative grandeur. Nonetheless this performance is so striking that any serious opera-lover will want to add it to their collection.

This is the kind of reclamation work that suits Riccardo Muti best, with his intense attention to detail and articulation, and his rhythmic energy. He has the most distinguished set of singers imaginable, with Diana Damrau superb, untiring, in the title role, injecting her reams of coloratura with vitality and colour. While none of the other parts is so taxing, they are taken with equal impressiveness, Daniela Barcellona in a trouser role standing out; while Giuseppe Sabbatini, the only man in the cast, makes every note in his moderate-sized role count.

At the end of Act I there is a tedious 20-minute ballet which I advise anyone to cut. The setting for Act I is several sets of steps, tirelessly trodden, with no hint of colour – that is supplied by the costumes. Act II is all cages and different steps, until near the end, when rows of audience seats are lowered for the chorus. Tiresome but easy to ignore. As usual with DVDs, there is a disgraceful lack of information in the booklet, not even a list of entry points, let alone any discussion of the work.

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Michael Tanner