WDBX Opera Overnight: Strauss, Handel

Theaterzettel zur Premiere der Richard-Strauss...

Playbill from the premiere of Salome, at the Dresden SemperOpera, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our first opera tonight is perhaps one of the more controversial operas in operatic history.  Salome was premiered in 1905, and within two years was banned in London and New York.  Of course, this should not be surprising, given the opera’s infamous Dance of the Seven Veils (which is a striptease, with many modern performers finishing the scene nude), and the finale in which Salome kisses the beheaded head of John the Baptist.  Yet the music is downright exquisite, a showpiece for strong-voice sopranos, and ranks among some of the most forward-looking music of the early 20th century.

Tonight’s recording is considered one of the best available recordings of the work, featuring the legendary soprano Birgit Nilsson and and Gerhard Stolze, along with Grace Hoffman and Eberhard Wächter leading a fine cast.  Sir Georg Solti leads the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Our next opera was financially considered one of George Frideric Handel’s greatest failures.  Ezio only received 5 performances when Handel premiered it in 1732, then fell from the repertoire and was not performed again until 1977 (a victim of the decline in popularity of the opera seria style).  Tonight’s performance is a 2009 recording with Ann Hallenberg, Karina Gauvin, Sonia Prina, Marianne Andersen, Anicio Giustiniani, Vito Priante; Il Complesso Barocco is conducted by Alan Curtis.

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WDBX Opera Overnight – Lully

Young Cupid (Frederick Metzger) visits Psyché ...

Young Cupid (Frederick Metzger) visits Psyché (Carolyn Sampson) in Boston Early Music Festival’s 2007 production of the French Baroque opera Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Psyché. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight’s selection is Psyché, an opera (technically a tragédie lyrique) in a prologue and five acts composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully to a libretto by Thomas Corneille.  The work was based on the love story of Cupid and Psyche and adapted from Molière’s original play, for which Lully had composed the music that would be played between acts.  The play was so successful that Lully is believed to have wanted to capitalize on the opportunity by expanding the intermezzo music into a full blown opera.   Psyché premiered on April 19, 1678 at the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris, and is said to have been very well received, as were all of Lully’s works (although it had only been revived twice until recently).

English: Stephen Stubbs at Leiden Pieterskerk ...

English: Stephen Stubbs at Leiden Pieterskerk Nederlands: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight’s recording is a 2008 recording that features Carolyn Sampson, Karina Gauvin, Aaron Sheehan, Colin Balzer, Amanda Forsythe,  and Mireille Lebel.  The Boston Early Music Festival and Chorus are directed by Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs.