Wednesday 10 July 2019

Quinto McFabio

And so to the opera. Your bloggist is in the Peak District for a spot of walking and opera going and has been to see 'Lucio Papirio Dittatore' by Antonio Caldara. Don't waste any time searching your memories for when you last saw it because this was the very first performance for three hundred years. I rather enjoyed it, and who's to say that I wouldn't have enjoyed it at least as much had it been two thirds the length; in other words, it went on a bit. Baroque composers seem to have collectively taken the view that if a thing was worth saying then it was worth saying seven or eight times.

The director had a difficult task, after all what is there left to say about the Second Samnite War that hasn't been said already? Especially on a very low budget for scenery and props. For reasons that probably made sense to him everything was wrapped in the style of Christo and costumes ranged from basically none, through anachronistic Imperial armour to Quintus Fabius in what appeared to be a kilt. Quintus and his father were both countertenors (the former being the pick of the cast) and Cominio was a soprano in a trouser role, except that this being Ancient Rome she didn't actually wear any trousers. The music and singing were excellent and Buxton Opera House is lovely, but it did all rather reinforce the truism that sometimes less is more.

I know you all like a wargaming connection, and in this case (assuming the Samnites were insufficient) it is provided by Caldara's patron the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. He of course was basically responsible for both the War of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Austrian Succession, fought various other unsuccessful wars against enemies such as the Ottomans and bankrupted his country but that aside wasn't a particularly bad man. In his capacity as patron of the arts he gets a ten minute encomium at the end of the opera, which was performed in full on the night. This was not only rather unnecessary (he's been dead since 1740), but must have been very confusing to anyone who hadn't attended the pre-show talk by the musical director and wasn't expecting it.

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