WDBX Opera Overnight: Strauss, Handel, Monteverdi

English: German Romantic composer Richard Strauss

German Romantic composer Richard Strauss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re going to start with an opera by Richard Strauss.  Strauss’s operatic catalog is intriguing in the variety of styles that he wrote in.  He wrote modernist music and neo-classical material, and even used waltzes in Der Rosenkavalier.  Tonight we’re going to hear one of his most modern works, Elektra.  The opera premiered in 1909, during the height of the Expressionist period in art, and makes extensive use of the sort of chromaticism and dissonance that we normally hear from composers like Schoenberg and Berg.  It was Strauss’s follow-up to his extremely popular opera Salome, which was also modernist, but Elektra finds Strauss at his most aggressive.  In fact, Strauss would moderate his future operas to be less dissonant, while still retaining the vivid chromatic harmonies that he was so good at composing.

Tonight’s recording is from 1988, and features Hildegard Behrens, Christa Ludwig, Nadine Secunde, Ragnar Ulfung, and Jorma Hynninen.  Seiji Ozawa leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

George Frideric Handel, born in the same year ...

George Frideric Handel, by Thomas Hudson (1749) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our second opera of the evening is Floridante, an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel.  It 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.

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.

Copy of a portrait of Claudio Monteverdi by Be...

Copy of a portrait of Claudio Monteverdi by Bernardo Strozzi, hanging in the Gallerie dall’Accademia in Venice (1640). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We shall conclude tonight’s show with a brief work by Claudio MonteverdiIl Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda is an operatic scene that Monteverdi wrote in 1624 for the Venetian Carnival season of 1624-25.  This was during a period when he was employed at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and focusing more on liturgical music.  The piece was not published until 1638, and was included with Monteverdi’s Eighth Book of Madrigals.  The piece is notable for several compositional innovations, including one of the earliest uses of pizzicato, and one of the earliest uses of the string tremolo.

Tonight’s recording is a 1992 recording that features Konstantinos Paliatsaras, Jakes Aymonino, and Tina Malakate.  Skip Sempé leads the Capriccio Stravagante.

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