CARLO IL CALVO
Nicola Antonio Porpora
Dramma per musica in three acts (new production)
Carlo il Calvo – ‘Charles the Bald’ – was first performed in 1738 at Rome’s leading opera house, the Teatro delle Dame. The cast consisted entirely of men and castrati. Women were not allowed to appear in public in the Papal States. Porpora’s opera is based on a Venetian libretto dating from 1699 which, under various titles, has been set to music by composers such as Vinacessi, Keller, Alessandro Scarlatti, Orlandini, Predieri, Fioré, Hurlebusch, Telemann and Vivaldi. The score has been preserved at the Conservatory in Naples.
The plot is set in that period of the early Middle Ages when Charlemagne’s Europe was disintegrating at the hands of his quarrelling heirs. Its distinctive feature is that the titular hero is a child. In contrast to his colleagues, Porpora even gives him some verses to sing. Louis the German, Charles’ half-brother and Charlemagne’s grandson, abducts the legitimate heir to the throne in order to rob him of his sovereignty. This provides Charles’s mother with the opportunity for heart-wrenching scenes of despair and breathtaking outbursts of felling. It’s a role that could have been tailor-made for Russian star soprano Julia Lezhneva. In the role of Louis, seduced into doing evil by treacherous advisers, Max Emanuel Cencic has the chance to launch into pathological hysteria. Only Franco Fagioli, as the noble knight Adalgiso, has what it takes to put a stop to the tyrant and re-establish the God-given order. But in doing so, Louis’s son comes into conflict with the fourth commandment…