Our first opera of the evening began as a contest for young Italian opera composers in 1888. Pietro Mascagni heard about the competition with two months remaining in the submission period, and assembled Cavalleria rusticana (translation: “Rustic Chivalry”), with a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci that was adapted from a play written by Giovanni Verga. It was hugely successful, and is credited as being one of the first operas in the verismo style. Its success allowed Mascagni to enjoy a successful composing career, although none of his later works saw the sort of wide-spread success that Cavalleria rusticana did.
Tonight’s recording features Agnes Baltsa, Plácido Domingo, Vera Baniewicz, Juan Pons, and Susanne Mentzer. Giuseppi Sinopoli leads the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Opera House Chorus.
Our second opera of the evening is a 1735 composition by George Frideric Handel. Alcina uses a libretto written by Riccardo Broschi, which Handel acquired while on a trip to Italy. The opera was premiered on April 16, 1735. After a revival in 1738, it was not performed again until 1928. However, Joan Sutherland revived it in a production by Franco Zeffirelli in 1960, and then again in 1962 and 1969, and it has seen several revivals since then.
Tonight’s recording is a very well-regarded 2007 recording that features Joyce DiDonato, Maite Beaumont, Sonia Prina, Karina Gauvin, Kobie van Rensburg, Vito Priante, and Laura Cherici. Alan Curtis leads the baroque specialist orchestra Il Complesso Barocco