This exciting set features a rare work by a famous composer, and a completely obscure stage work by a long-forgotten name, but in spite of all this off the beaten track stuff there is much that one can enjoy, especially in the Handel piece.
"Alessandro Severo" focuses on the main events surrounding a third century emperor and dates from 1738. It is one of Handel's three extant "pasticcios" and in it, the great master proves once again his innate ability to portray dramatic situations in powerful musical terms. With consummate astuteness he brings together a selection of his greatest successes from earlier works to form a new, coherent whole. This was indeed the way to supply once again the English public with the highest artistic pleasure in a short span of time.
The Greek composer Niccolò Manzaro (1795-1872) is best known for his writing of the Greek national anthem, but he also composed a considerable number of other works that deserve recognition. The discovery of an opera by him was a major scoop, even for conductor George Petrou. Written in 1815, "Don Crepuscolo" is very easy to perform because it consists mainly of mute roles. Only the "Don" is permitted to sing. Notwithstanding this, all the other characters have what it takes. The highly comical libretto also contributes immensely to the delightfulness of this piece, which centres on the protagonist's youthful freshness and élan who is always yearning for a dream woman.
Petrou again draws on a superb vocal cast and the recently founded Armonia Atenea performing on historical instruments exude confidence and commitment from beginning to end. Not something you hear every day, but if you want to invest in a little hidden treasure chest, this extremely fine MD&G set is just what you have been looking for. Warmly recommended.
Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech.