The marvelous Swedish mezzo Ann Hallenberg has rarely performed in the U.S. and never in New York, but her appearance next week in Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans at Carnegie Hall will finally change that. In the meantime, “Trove Thursday” presents Hallenberg and controversial Argentinian countertenor Franco Fagioli in the title roles of a true rarity: Giulietta e Romeo by Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli.
Last year’s Pfingsten Festival in Salzburg, probably to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, was devoted to Romeo and Juliet. The centerpiece was a staging of Bernstein’s West Side Story starring the festival’s head, Cecilia Bartoli. But an adjunct event was what I believe to have been the modern premiere of this long-forgotten piece by Zingarelli who wrote almost 40 operas—nearly all unperformed for over 200 years.
This concert performance was a surprise success and suddenly Giulietta, which premiered at La Scala in 1796, is popping up all over. A staging was recently mounted in Heidelberg and three performances are scheduled for April at La Fenice in Venice. And rumor has it that the singers (minus Fagioli) and orchestra from this performance will soon do it again at the Theater an der Wien.
As I have previously rhapsodized on this site about my unbounded admiration for Hallenberg,
I’ll just say that I continue to find her one of the most compleat and consistently satisfying singers before the public today. Although she has recently been performing more and more “standard” repertoire (Brahms, Mahler, etc.), she continues to reign supreme in the uniquely challenging music of the 18th century—much more so than the celebrated Bartoli and Joyce DiDonato. The grand news arrived that a new CD of unknown arias from the 1720s will be released later this year, as well as a recording of Handel’s Ottone on which she sings Gismonda.
After opening the season at the Paris Opéra in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo, Fagioli seems to now be concentrating on the 19th century, particularly Rossini, the subject of his recent debut CD on Deutsche Grammophon.
His upcoming appearances in Nancy as Arsace in Semiramide must count as an unprecedented feat for a modern countertenor.
Zingarelli: Giulietta e Romeo
Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele, Haus für Mozart
14 May 2016
Ann Hallenberg — Giulietta
Irini Karaianni — Matilde
Franco Fagioli — Romeo
Bogdan Mihai – Everardo
Xavier Sabata — Gilberto
Juan Sancho – Teobaldo
Chor Armonia Atenea
George Petrou — conductor
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