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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Paisiello: La Grotta di Trofonio

08/13/2017 1:00 pm
08/13/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

You've already listened to a famous Italian opera buffa by Mozart. Get ready to audition a really obscure but delightful work in that comic genre. Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) wrote a "Barber of Seville" opera in 1782. It was world famous and enormously popular for decades until Rossini's new version came along in 1816. I have broadcast the Paisiello "Barber" three times in the past, first on an old Mercury LP recording from 1960 on Sunday, October 6, 1985 and then employing the 1985 Frequenz CD release on Sunday, August 14, 1994 and October 8, 2006. Another one of his buffa successes was Socrate Immaginario ("The Man Who Thought He Was Socrates," 1775). A Bongiovanni CD release of that now forgotten work I presented on two occasions, on Sunday, July 21, 2002 and again on Sunday, August 9 ,2009. Perhaps Paisiello's biggest hit was Nina, ossia la Pazza per Amore ("Nina,or the Madness of Love," 1789), a sentimental lyric comedy, which was revived at La Scala, Milan's prestigious opera house, in 1999, with Riccardo Muti directing the musical resources. The Agora CD release of Nina I presented on Sunday, August 15, 2004.

Now along comes the world premiere recording of La Grotta di Trofonio ("Trofonio's Cave," 1785) through the Italian Dymanic record label. This 2017 release captures the audio part of the staged production of this opera buffa at the 42nd Festival della Valle d'Itria. The setting is eighteenth century Greece. Trofonio, an aged philosopher, is the proprietor of a magic cave. People who go into it come outwith a total change of personality. A succession of marriageable young ladies and their suitors resort to Trofonio's cave with hilarious results. The theatrical gimmick of the magic cave seems to have been popular at that time. Antonio Salieri drew upon the same libretto by Giuseppe Palomba for his own "magic cave " opera produced in Vienna. Paisiello was long associated with the Teatro San Carlo in Naples; he included a character who sings in Neapolitan dialect. It's fitting that the modern Foundation of the Teatro San Carlo should co-produce La Grotta di Trofonio. The opera was recorded live in performance in July, 2016. Giuseppe Grazioli conducts the International Orchestra of Italy with a cast of eight singers, all of whom are native Italian speaking.