The piece that we’re going to start the evening with is the first opera I ever attended personally. Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata was based on La dame aux Camélias, an 1852 stage play that was adapted from a novel by the same name by Alexandre Dumas. It was premiered on March 6, 1853 in Venice, with audience members jeering the casting of Fanny Salvini-Donatelli in the lead role of Violetta, as they thought that she was too old (38) and overweight to play the role of a young woman dying from consumption. The first performance met with mixed reactions (Donatelli is said to have actually sang well, although she did not look the part, but other performers were apparently not as effective), but after some revisions made in 1853 and 1854, the opera was re-presented with more success, largely due this time to the casting of Maria Spezia-Aldighieri. It eventually became immensely popular, and currently ranks second most often presented opera worldwide, only behind Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Our second opera of the evening is Floridante, an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel. Part of the pre-oratorio Italian opera stage of his career, the opera used a libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli, and was premiered on December 9, 1721. Although it received several performances between 1722 and 1733, it was not performed after that point in time until a 1962 revival. The same sort of thing happened to many of Handel’s works.
Tonight’s recording is a 2005 recording that features Marijana Mijanovic, Joyce Didonato, Vito Priante, and Sharon Rostorf-Zamir. Alan Curtis leads his Il Complesso Barocco, part of his excellent series of Handel operatic recordings.