Friday 02 February 2018
Rameau and Mozart with Harry Bicket
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra
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Platée: Suite des Danses / 8’
Voi avete un cor fedele, K217 / 6’
Oh temerario Arbace! – Per quel paterno amplesso, K79 / 7’
Ah se in ciel, benigne stelle, K538 / 8’
Serenata notturna in D, K239 / 13’
Suite from Les Boréades / 31’
A brace of brilliant ballet suites by Rameau frame a programme of ravishing, coloratura-laced arias by Mozart sung by soprano Anna Devin – ‘a voice as liquid and sparkling as the best champagne’ (The Times) – with the ‘flawless and uplifting’ (The Independent) Harry Bicket conducting the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.
Rameau’s Platée threw convention to the wind and returned ribald satire to French opera houses in 1745. A fantastical tale of the ugly eponymous water nymph who believes Jupiter, king of the gods, is in love with her, it was greeted by friend and foe alike as a masterpiece. The sparkling ballet Suite drawn from its score is a collection of animated dances and airs teeming over with colour and incident.
Commissioned as a replacement aria for an opera by Baldassare Galuppi, the heartrending Voi avete un cor fedele (‘You have a faithful heart’) is a wholly characteristic Mozart aria for the then fashionable figure in Italian opera of the disillusioned female. Boasting a delightfully knowing, tongue-in-cheek irony and rich coloratura highlights, it surely flattered Galuppi’s now all but forgotten opera.
Legend has it that Mozart was just 10-years-old when he composed Oh temerario Arbace! – Per quel paterno amplesso (‘Oh dreadful Arbace! – For that fatherly embrace’) to a text by Pietro Metastasio in 1766. Others date it to 1770 when he would have been 14, Either way, it’s a remarkably mature and achingly romantic creation even allowing it being traditional in scope and sentiment.
Ah se in ciel, benigne stele (‘Ah, if there are benign stars in heaven’) was composed in 1788 for the soprano Aloysia Lange. Rich, challenging orchestral writing infuses a text from Pietro Metastasio’s libretto L’eroe cinese (‘The Chinese heroes’) with an exoticness that contemporary audiences associated with the mysteries of the East. The taxing, high-lying vocal line calls for appropriately heroic breath control.
The Serenata notturna of 1776 was composed as background music. Evening soirées with discrete ‘mood music’ were all the rage at the time. Ever rebellious, Mozart clearly wanted his ‘Night Serenade’ to be heard. Scored for multi-tasking strings and attention-seeking timpani, its compact three-movement form calls out for attention. The icing on an already rich cake is the music’s symphonic leanings and its feisty, fun finale with delightfully ‘listen to me’ timpani in scene-stealing splendour.
Rameau’s final opera, Les Boréades, returned to that favourite standby of 18th-century French opera: Greek mythology. The posthumously arranged Suite (Rameau dying during rehearsals) opens with a rousing Overture and includes a set of dances whose characteristically bright colouring is tempered by the grave drama of a tale involving abduction, magic arrows and the god Apollo.
National Concert Hall
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