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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Telemann: Flavius Bertaridus

02/10/2013 1:00 pm
02/10/2013 4:30 pm


Host Keith Brown writes:

One of the single most prolific composers in the history of music, Georg Phillipp Telemann (1681-1767) wrote at least seventeen operas among literally thousands of other compositions. When Telemann began composing for the stage there was scarcely any German opera at all. He tried his hand at comic opera in the Italian buffa style, but adapted for the nascent German lyric theater in Hamburg.

His opera Der Geduldige Sokrates ("Patient Socrates"), first performed at Hamburg's Gansemarkt Theater in 1721, couldn't quite break free of its Italian model. Hamburg audiences still insisted on hearing some Italian arias interspersed throughout the German language recitatives, vocal numbers and choruses. I have broadcast Der Geduldige Sokrates on Sundays in 1984, '89, '93 and '96. I had two different recordings of it to work from.

These four presentations were augmented by one broadcast of a short comic intermezzo of Telemann's, also partly in German, partly in Italian language. Pimpinone (1725) went over the air on Sunday, July 16, 2000.

Flavius Bertaridus (1729) also premiered in Hamburg's "Goose Market" opera house. This one was modeled on "serious" Italian opera, the baroque opera seria, its theatrical action derived from history and dealing with the displaced king of the Lombards and how he regained his throne.

Flavius Bertaridus was revived onstage in 2011 for the "early music" festival at Innsbruck, Austria, in coproduction with the Hamburg State Opera. A period instrument orchestra from Turin in Italy, the Academia Montis Regalis, was called in for the festival. Alessandro de Marchi directed the orchestra and the choir of the Academia, with an international cast of eight vocal solists.

The world premiere recording of Telemann's Flavius Bertaridus came out in 2012 through Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. On three generously timed CD's this opera is so long I will just barely be able to accommodate it in my allotted timeslot, so the usual theme music, introductory remarks and synopsis of the action must be sacrificed to give you Telemann's music in its entirety.