We start the evening with an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Lucio Silla is an Italian opera in three acts that was premiered on Dec. 26, 1772 in Milan. Mozart was 16 and touring with his father, who had been staging Mozart as a prodigious child performer in hopes of Wolfgang receiving professional appointments. The libretto was written by Giovanni de Gamerra, and the opera was considered “a moderate success”. It is not a regular part of the standard opera repertoire, although it does receive occasional performance. It does, however, hold up very well as an enjoyable listening experience, especially when considering that Mozart was so young when he wrote this. In particular, there is some spectacular singing, and the opera provides some excellent examples of baroque singing technique. It should be noted that the earliest of Mozart’s works that is still widely performed is Exsultate, jubilate, K. 165, which was written in 1773. So we can classify Lucio Silla as being one of his early works.
Tonight’s performance is a 1989 recording of an edited score, which features Peter Schreier, Edita Gruberova, Cecilia Bartoli, Dawn Upshaw, and Yvonne Kenny, with Concentus Musicus Wien and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir under the direction of Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
Our second opera of the evening is Luisa Miller, an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. It was premiered on December 8, 1849, making it one of his “early period” operas, and has entered the regular operatic repertoire. It is notable for the numerous beautiful arias given to the title character, and the father-daughter duet between Luisa and Miller, her father, are one of several such duets that Verdi wrote for his operas. Several performances of the opera are currently planned in celebration of the 2013 bi-centenary of Verdi’s birth, and La Scalla in Milan just completed a production of the work last month. Tonight’s recording is a 1964 recording that features Anna Moffo, Carlo Bergonzi, Cornell MacNeil, Shirley Verrett, Giorgio Tozzi, and Ezio Flagello. Fausto Cleva leads the RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra.