Antonio Caldara The Cervantes Operas La Ritirata ObregonAntonio Caldara – The Cervantes Operas

María Espada: soprano, Emiliano González Toro: tenor, João Fernandes: bass

La Ritirata
Hiro Kurosaki, concertmaster
Josetxu Obregón, artistic director
Glossa, 2016

This recording collects under the title The Cervantes Operas excerpts from two operas inspired to Antonio Caldara by the celebrated novel Don Quijote by the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes: Don Chisciotte in corte della duchessa and Sancio Panza Governatore dell’isola Barattaria, with the aim to «provide an insight into the naturalness with which the figure of Don Quixote was introduced into an operatic tradition which, while certainly already replete with conventions, was capable of absorbing and interweaving veritable Cervantine characters and stories with many of opera’s most significant subjects» (from the booklet note by Begoña Lolo and Adela Presas).

Both operas are on libretto by Giovanni Claudio Pasquini and premiere at the Teatrino at the court in Vienna: Don Chisciotte in 1727 and Sancio Panza in 1733. The two operas are therefore strictly connected from many points of view, not only the source, but also the librettist and the audience and each one develops an episode ignored by the other: the former focuses on the chapters of the original story devoted to the adventures of Don Quixote in the castle of the Dukes, while the latter is based on the chapters of Sancho’s government.

The excerpts give a pretty good idea of the two operas as they include a variety of musical numbers as recitatives, arias and ballet music to give a general and exhaustive summary of the two operas, preceded by a vivavious Introduzione. The rest of the music is not as enthralling as the first piece, but it is always enjoyable and finely performed. The soloists, soprano María Espada, tenor Emiliano González Toro and bass João Fernandes, are not exceptional singers and their voices are not the most sympathetic (especially the bass, who sounds a bit cold), but they are persuasive in their performance, are generally in tune with little flaws and quite good in coloratura (the best example is Don Chisciotte’s aria Sì, l’abbiamo) and are supported by the ensemble La Ritirata, playing on original instruments.

La Ritirata is the best and more vital part of the album and it is always pleasing even in the pieces where the musical inspiration seem to fade. It was therefore a smart choice to include the ballet music, with a larger portion from Don Chisciotte and just one piece from Sancio Panza, the Tempo di Ciacona, at the end of the album. The four parts of the ballet (Aria, Entre, Gigue and Menueto) are not among the finest music of Don Chisciotte, but they are played with energy and grace, while the Tempo di Ciacona is an appropriate, lazy and light “exeunt”, in sharp contrast with the inviting introduction (you can easily imagine the singers leaving the stage).

The Cervantes Operas is not an album that reveals excellent music, but its aim is to give a literary and musical account (perfectly summarized in the illuminating booklet notes) of the success of the character of Don Quixote and, from this point of view, it is a nice and effective synthesis.

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