Schuster: Demofoonte

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schuster
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Demofoonte
PERFORMER: Andreas Post, Dorothee Mields, Marie Melnitzki, Jörg Waschinski; La Ciaccona/Ludger Rémy
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 98282 2
The rediscovery of the later 18th-century opera seria on disc proceeds apace. This latest issue is a true rarity – an early work (1776), produced for the Italian city of Forlì, by the Dresden composer Joseph Schuster (1748-1812). His Demofoonte, a late setting of one of Metastasio’s most popular librettos (written for Caldara in 1733), is here revealed as a substantial, musically pleasurable piece.

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It’s not dramatically innovative in the way of Schuster’s seniors, Gluck, Traetta and Jommelli or, later, Mozart in Idomeneo and La clemenza di Tito. The influence of Hasse, one of the (conservative) pillars of both the Italian opera seria and Dresden music, is palpable: smoothly rounded aria forms in which vocal and instrumental lines combine euphoniously, a sophisticated command of vocal technique (the second female lead skyrockets continually above the stave), a palpable deepening of emotions in the later stages of the convoluted plot.

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La Ciaccona, whose leader Ulla Schneider brought Demofoonte to light, plays with spirit and sensibility, and the cast of seven, by no means the last word in Italianate virtuosity, sings with taste and skill. (None of them is a household name, so the absence of booklet biographies is frustrating.) In sum, an issue full of interest and reward for the sympathetically attuned listener. Max Loppert