- Siroe rè di Persia, opera
The rediscovery of the almost forgotten opera seria repertory of the 18th century has led to spectacular aria recitals by stars as big as Renée Fleming as well as a host of European and American specialists. Recordings of entire operas, other than those by Handel, have been a good deal rarer; even Vivaldi hasn't really gotten his due. Now comes this major-label release of an opera by Johann Adolf Hasse, a German composer who conquered Italy (they called him "Il Caro Sassone," the dear Saxon) and married one of the leading sopranos of the age, Faustina Bordoni. "Siroe" is an adapation of a story also set by Handel, in a slightly different version; the libretto here is by Pietro Metastasio, despite his cancer-evoking name the most famous operatic dramatist of the century. Those who have been intrigued by the big arias heard on recitals, which are undeniably a great deal of visceral fun, can rely on finding more in abundance here, with several really spectacular vocalists --countertenors Franco Fagioli and Max Emanuel Cencic and soprano Julia Lezhneva -- on hand. Listeners will be plunged into glittering soprano scales and arpeggios and high-range countertenor heroics almost immediately, and they never really let up. What Handel had that Hasse lacked (at least here) was the capacity for a really good slow tune where the action seems to stop, and in general the tale, typical in its royal family drama, is not terribly compelling. One can see why Hasse was forgotten: the opera is made up of a set of conventions that were specific to its time and place, conventions that the fearless Mozart swept away. Ultimately, though, opera is about the singing, and much of it is breathtaking here. The opera was recorded during live performances in Athens, and the sound is clear, not boxy.