University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Paisiello: Fedra

02/24/2019 1:00 pm
02/24/2019 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

We commonly think of Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) as a composer of Italian comic opera. After all, it was he who wrote the original "Barber of Seville" in 1782, the one that came before Rossini's "Barber" of 1816. The old Mercury LP and Frequenz CD recordings of Paisiello's Il Barbiere di Siviglia I have broadcast several times over the years. I have also aired recordings of other, lesser known Neapolitan opere buffe by Paisiello, like Socrate Imaginario (1773) or La Grotta di Trofonio (1785). After the adopted son of Naples got back from his sojourn in Russia in 1784 he ceased to crank out so many of those comic operas in favor of works with more serious content. His sentimental romantic comedy Nina, ossia la Pazza per Amore (1789) was an enormous hit. I broadcast the Ricordi CD release of Nina on Sunday, August 15, 2004.

Nina has its serious moments, but Fedra (1791), is more truly an opera seria. It tells a story taken up many times before by opera composers about Hippolytus and Aricia. This operatic version of the ancient Greek legend is given a happy ending. The role of Queen Phaedra (in Italian Fedra) is a study in guilt. Fedra was staged in 2016 at the Teatro Massimo Bellini of Catania in Sicily. The production draws upon Paisiello's autograph score as preserved in the library of the Naples Conservatory. Jerome Correas conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Teatro Massimo. The Italian Dynamic record label issued Fedra on two compact discs in 2016. Dynamic informs us that this is the world premiere recording of Paisiello's work.