University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Pergolesi: Adriano in Siria

10/22/2017 1:00 pm
10/22/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

In the first half of the eighteenth century, there was what has been called the "Neapolitan School" of opera composers. The only one of these Neapolitans whose name is remembered today is Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-36), and the only opera he is remembered for is the short one act comic intermezzo La Serva Padrona (1733). Pergolesi helped to create the genre of the Italian opera buffa. He wrote a few full length comic operas and he turned out serious lyric theaterworks, too. One of these is Adriano in Siria (1734).

Pergolesi worked from a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. In the mid eighteenth century Metastasio's wordbooks were set to music again and again. They set the standard in Italian opera seria at the end of the baroque. In Adriano in Siria, Metastasio concocted a totally fictional story about the Roman emperor Hadrian. This opera's got it all: the conflict between love and duty, intrigue both amorous and political, disguise, a faked murder and arson, to boot!

The fabulous castrato singing star Caffarelli took the role of Parnaspe, prince of Parthia, when Adriano premiered at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples. Adriano, the emperor, was portrayed by a female soprano in what's called a "britches role." High voices were always favored in baroque opera. In place of the castrato voice in the world premiere recording of Adriano in Siria, we hear the countertenor Franco Fagioli, and another high-voiced male singer Yuriy Mynenko is cast as Adriano.

This opera seria was produced for concert performance in the studios of Radio Cracow in Poland. Jan Tomasz Adamus conducts the period instrumentalists of the Capella Cracoviensis. Decca released Adriano in Siria on three compact discs in 2016.