Armida abbandonata is one of Niccolo Jommelli's finest operas. It was the first he composed after returning to Naples from his triumphant years in Stuttgart (1754-1769), receiving its first performance at the Teatro San Carlo on May 30, 1770. Among those who attended was the 14-year old Mozart, whose report that Armida was "beautiful, but too serious and old-fashioned for the theater," has been frequently quoted and almost as frequently misunderstood. "The theater" almost certainly refers specifically to the San Carlo, which did indeed find Armida "too serious," in the sense of its harmonic and orchestral complexity, ironically a criticism Mozart himself would later encounter in Vienna.
This is a truly thrilling performance of a rare Rossini opera. I listened to it twice through upon receiving it. I can understand why it is rarely performed, although this is a live performance. One needs to marshall a tremendous cast to pull this opera off satisfactorily. Renee Fleming is the only female voice in the cast and shines in her role as the sorceress. The various tenors, and in particular Carlo Bosi, all perform with total commitment and are endowed with the skill to execute Rossini's twists and turns with apparent ease. To be quite honest, I don't even care about the story line; many of them are silly anyway. However, if you want to listen to glorious voices performing difficult music with seeming ease and agility, this recording will thrill you as it did me.
A keen advocate of the works of Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), Christophe Rousset continues his exploration of the composers operas, having unearthed the manuscript of another masterpiece. In the form in which it was first performed in Vienna on 2 June 1771, Armida presents a perfect synthesis of the Italian and French styles.
Renée Fleming stars in the title role of this rarely heard diva showcase, in a production by Tony Award® winner Mary Zimmerman. Rossini's opera, set in the time of the Crusades, tells the story of a vengeful sorceress who enthralls men in her island prison. This DVD captures the production's Live in HD presentation, as seen in cinemas around the world.
Armida is the tenth opera in the Vivaldi Edition; it's the second one to be recorded by Rinaldo Alessandrini (their first was L’Olimpiade). It's a great success. Marking the end of Vivaldi's first period in Venice, it lacks music for Act II. Alessandrini has reconstructed it here using carefully chosen existing music of the composer with the assistance of the musicologist Frédéric Delaméa.
Antwerp's Opera Vlaanderen continues its Rossini opera cycle with this production of his rarely performed Armida, conducted by Alberto Zedda. The work features no less than four tenors in the leading roles, taken here by the commanding voices of Enea Scala, Robert McPherson, Dario Schmunck and the young rising star, Adam Smith.
Stage director Mariame Clément teams up once more for Opera Vlaanderen with set designer Julia Hansen, building on their successful production of Cavalli's Il Giasone. Here they take a critical look at the world of the Crusades. Clément sees Armida as the incarnation of the magical concept of ‘love’, for which noble and heroic knightly ideals are cast aside, turning love into a destructive frenzy.
A keen advocate of the works of Antonio Salieri, Christophe Rousset continues his exploration of the composer's works, having unearthed the manuscript of another masterpiece. The three-act opera Armida, first performed on June 2, 1771 in Vienna, presents a perfect synthesis of the Italian and French styles. Salieri was just twenty when he turned to the difficult opera seria genre. He chose to tackle a well-known subject: that of the love affair between the Christian Crusader Rinaldo and the Saracen sorceress Armida, borrowed from Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata. A very dense plot focuses on an intense drama involving just four characters. The fluidity, originality and brio of his compositional style were to ensure Salieri's lasting reputation throughout Europe.
Cimarosa was an expert at writing lighthearted opera buffa that zipped along. Much of this music sounds very much like his better known IL Matrimonio Segreto, coming clearly out of the same stable, but it has its distinctive elements. Here the forces of the Festival Valle D'Itria come up with a sparkling production. The singing and the orchestra come across as excellent, the conductor Eric Hull keeping things moving with a light touch that keeps it all together. The singers keep the music zipping along, and when it turns more serious, Alla Simonischvili, the lead soprano, and the others handle it well. Well recorded, especially considering that apparently we have some sort of mixture of only two straight-through live performances, and well performed this set offers a good deal of pleasure.(John Cragg)
Tasso’s masterpiece inherited the entire western literary legacy starting with Homer, and at the same time it comes to constitute the inspiring model of future generations of musicians, painters, and, of course, poets. In sum, working with Tasso allows us to communicate with a vast universe in time and space.