University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Salieri: Tarare

01/12/2020 1:00 pm
01/12/2020 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) advanced his career as an opera composer as a junior colleague of the great reformer of eighteenth century opera, Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-87). No one is certain to this day how extensive a hand Gluck actually had in the composition of the French lyric tragedy Les Danaïdes (1784), but it seems he graciously allowed Salieri to take credit by name for it. I presented the world premiere recording of the Gluck/Salieri collaboration on Sunday, June 19, 2016.

Salieri composed at least forty operas during his long career--many more than his supposed rival, Mozart. His early comic opera La Locandiera (1773) was highly successful, and a recording of that work went over the air on Sunday, January 31, 1999. Another later opera buffa, Falstaff (1799), I presented three times, in 1994, 1996, and 2014, in its world premiere Hungaroton recording.

Salieri collaborated with the French author Beaumarchais (of "Marriage of Figaro" fame) as his librettist in Tarare (1787), a fantasy parable of an opera set in the Orient like those popular "Turkish" operas of the eighteenth century. Parisians flocked to the premiere of Tarare. Salieri's music was splendid and the noble sentiments expressed in the libretto were said to have inspired the French revolution. The opera's success outlived the revolution and the Napoleonic regime that followed. Tarare made it to Vienna and other European capitals, and it continued to be staged up to 1826.

Modern listeners to the world premiere recording of Tarare may well be reminded of Mozart's "The Magic Flute." It was made under the auspices of the Centre de Musique Baroque of Versailles in late 2018 for release through the French Aparte record label on three compact discs in 2019. Christophe Rousset leads the period instrument orchestra he founded, Les Talens Lyriques, and the choral singers of the Centre, with a cast of ten vocal soloists.