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LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: Maometto II
PERFORMER: Sebastian Na, Antonio de Gobbi, Luca Salsi; Czech Philharmonic Choir & Chamber Soloists, Brno/Gabriele Bellini
CATALOGUE NO: 8.225279-80
Peter Winter (1754-1825) gets his place in the history books as composer of Das Labyrinth (1798), Schikaneder’s sequel to Die Zauberflöte. His career, though, was long and prolific (Grove lists 40 operas) and successful internationally, not just in his native Germany. Prior to this release only excerpts from Winter’s operas were available on disc; in principle this Maometto II, taken live at the 2002 Rossini in Wildbad Festival, is an enterprising act of operatic archaeology. A late (1816) two-act lyric tragedy based on Voltaire and written for Milan, it proves a substantial piece. For reasons of political correctness it might be tricky to revive widely today – the prophet Mohammed, the titular character, is shown by Voltaire (and the librettist Felice Romani) in a thoroughly unsympathetic light – but Winter’s idiom, with its various post-echoes of Mozart and Cherubini and foreshadowings of the serious Rossini, is always expertly forged; in the final scenes he achieves genuine grandeur. Conductor Gabriele Bellini does justice to him, as do the Czech chorus and orchestra. The flies in Marco Polo’s ointment are the booklet libretto, in Italian only, and, more importantly, the solo singers: with a single exception – the capable Korean tenor Sebastian Na as Mohammed – these are revealed as seriously deficient in matters of technique (the leading bass goes persistently flat) and style. For the operatically curious only. Max Loppert