Ercole sul Termodonte (1723): Antonio Vivaldi

Vivaldi: Ercole sul Termodonte

★★★½

(Spoleto Festival, 2006, Il Complesso Barocco with Alan Curtis)

We’ve discussed, on a previous occasion, the indignities inflicted on opera singers, but the sadomasochism of Alcina has just been comprehensively trumped. I’d like to say that one remembers this production of Ercole sul Termodonte for its wonderful music, or for the simple and effective set designs, or for the generally admirable cast. But this would be disingenuous. Cast, crew and orchestra must have known, from the moment they began rehearsals, that this opera would be remembered forever for Zachary Stains performing the title role of Ercole stark naked, with nothing to preserve his modesty except the occasional fortuitous shadow cast by the paws of his lion-skin cloak.

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Lucio Cornelio Silla (1713): George Frideric Handel

Handel: Lucio Cornelio Silla

★★★½

(Oper Halle, with Händelfestspielorchester Halle and Enrico Onofri, 5 June 2015)

Tickets had all sold out and we’d accepted that we weren’t going to get to see this staged revival of Handel’s rarely-performed 1713 opera (there’s only one extant recording, from 2000, with James Bowman as Silla). And then, during the interval of Jaroussky’s concert, I got chatting to some fellow English travellers, who just happened to have two tickets going spare for the following night and very generously offered them at a discount. And so, slightly dazzled, we found ourselves at the premiere in absolutely splendid seats in the centre of the stalls.

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