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WORKS: Giulia e Sesto Pompeo
PERFORMER: Francesca Pedaci, Elisabetta Scano, Carlo Vincenzo Allemano, Patricia Spence, Carlo Bosi, Donato di Stefano; Swiss-Italian Radio Chorus & Orchestra/ Angelo Campori
CATALOGUE NO: 999 825-2
The first of Carlo Soliva’s operas, La testa di bronzo (Milan, 1816), a huge hit, prompted a famous outburst from Stendhal: ‘This music is the most certain, inflamed, dramatic I’ve ever heard.’ This was before Stendhal’s enthusiasms for Rossini obliterated others in Italian opera – appropriately, since the shooting star that was Rossini (born, like Soliva, in 1791) torpedoed the careers of almost all his contemporaries. Soliva, after four more essays in the medium, left for Warsaw (where he became a close friend of Chopin’s), St Petersburg and Paris (where he died in 1853) – later he was more famous as a conductor than as a composer. On this evidence of an impressive performance of his fourth opera (1818), he can be judged one of the more tantalising might-have-beens of 19th-century Italian opera. It’s a sonorous, fluent and often grandly dignified return to opera seria: Mozart (a passion of his) and in particular La clemenza di Tito are clear models, as are later composers like Mayr and Paer. It lacks Rossini’s melodic distinction, his ability to speed whole paragraphs on a flood of memorable invention. But it will reward the adventurous, especially since the performance – a 1998 Swiss-Italian Radio recording – is strongly guided, delivered by fresh, stylish, technically secure young singers (among whom the tenor Carlo Vincenzo Allemano, soprano Elisabetta Scano and mezzo Patricia Spence stand out), and based on solid choral and orchestral support. CPO’s booklet, however, is blighted by factual errors and translation howlers. Max Loppert