POLIFEMO
Nicola Antonio Porpora
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12
Sep 2021

POLIFEMO

Nicola Antonio Porpora

Opera Seria in Three Acts – in concert | Armonia Atenea | George Petrou

Sunday, September 12, 2021 | 15:00 h
Markgräfliches Opernhaus Bayreuth

Music by Nicola Antonio Porpora
Libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli

Nicola Porpora was Farinelli’s teacher and rival of Handel  and Hasse. One of the most brilliant figures in the musical Baroque, he triggered decisive impulses for the development of opera in the first half of the eighteenth century. He worked in Italy – mostly in his home city of Naples – but also in London, Dresden and Vienna, perhaps not always treating his fellow composers with fairness, but always aspiring towards the development of elemental features of beauty in music. He was an expert in handling the singing voice both as regards training as well as its effective application. At the beginning of 1735 he wrote the opera seria Polifemo for the Opera of the Nobility, which had been set up in the British capital as rival enterprise to Handel’s operatic empire. It was premiered with Farinelli in the role of Aci.

The libretto by Paolo Rolli is based on two well-known Greek myths, both linked to the Cyclops Polyphemus: the story of the nymph Galatea and the shepherd Acis, also with the Cyclops’ meeting with Odysseus, which did not turn out to the one-eyed giant’s advantage. Porpora created music of dynamic expressive power and virtuosity for the colourful scenes, which are as effective today as they were at the time – especially with a top-class ensemble capable of igniting Porpora’s score to glow with new fire.

The Composer

Porpora – teacher of Farinelli and Hasse in Naples, Handel’s rival in London and the young Haydn’s employer in Vienna – wrote Carlo il Calvo for the best singers of his day. They included his 19-year-old pupil Anton Huber, known as Porporino, who went to the court of Frederick II in Berlin two years later and entered the city’s musical history as star of the Unter den Linden opera house in Berlin. Lorenzo Ghirardi, the Elector of Bavaria’s virtuoso chamber singer, played Adalgiso. The vocal part makes appropriately exorbitant demands. Look forward to a songfest of exceptional calibre!

Following his CD recording of Germanico in Germania for Decca and Polifemo at the Salzburg Whitsun Festival in 2019, with Porpora’s Carlo il Calvo Max Emanuel Cencic is continuing his exploration of the great Neapolitan composer’s work. Three of Lottario’s arias can already be heard on his CD Nicola Porpora: Opera Arias (Decca).

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