Education instead of abuse: “Silla” by Graun at the Innsbruck Festival of Early Music | nmz

“The king is as disciplined in the opera house as he is in the army,” observed Charles Burney on his famous “Musical Journey” through Europe around 1770. He was referring to Frederick II. von Prussia, who watched and controlled the Royal Opera House in Berlin with keen attention, but also shows in the Orangery of Charlottenburg Palace and in the Sanssouci Palace Theater. Frederick II. not only wanted to be the first servant of his state, but also the first dramaturge of his opera house. One result of these efforts is the Friedrichs II. Libretto invention designed and premiered on March 27, 1753 in the Royal Opera House in Berlin dramma per musica opera “Silla”. It shows the extraordinary ideal of a ruler who overcomes low driving forces and voluntarily resigns. A utopia too good to be true. The Prussian Kapellmeister Carl Heinrich Graun composed gripping and forward-looking music for this. The Italian verses by Giovanni Pietro Tagliazucchi follow one of three draft librettos by King Frederick II. of Prussia, which the music and art loving ruler had written in French. The well-known operas “Montezuma” and “Silla” were composed by the Prussian court music director Carl Heinrich Graun.

The score is a great success, the second act with its stringent build-up is without a doubt one of the most exciting operatic acts of the mid-18th century. The performance became a festival not only because of the four counter voices from the current list of the best that were offered at the Innsbruck Festival, but also because Alessandro De Marchi, to the happiness of the audience, postponed his departure from the position of director of the Innsbruck Festival until 2023. Georg Quander, who had initiated the Berlin-Innsbruck cooperation axis as Lindenoper director in the 1990s, did not interfere. The ensemble threw themselves in beautiful, decorative and effective poses. For example, Roberta Invernizzi in arias with which the patrician Fulvia offers her daughter Olimpia a liaison with the dictator, even though he is an enemy of her family. Graun composed delicate precious material in perfect conciliation of gallantry and opportunity. Eleonora Bellocci (incidentally with many more expressive colors than two years ago in Paër’s “Leonora”) approaches Ottavia freely, intensely and beautifully.

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Before the absolutist building illusions, Julia Dietrich could confidently have shown a little more shades of Rome, which was dangerous in the first century BC. The music does too. Graun, at its best, goes further than Mozart’s more measured “Titus”, which contains several similar plot situations as “Silla”. This opera is also a drama about the struggles of being a good politician. Moral yes, but not whispering or sentimental. With familiar forms in 1750, Graun’s music advances into new dimensions of expression. There are more ensembles than Handel’s, not as many as Gluck’s. But between Silla and Ottavia one of the first duets in opera history, which does not reveal harmony, but rather harsh sensitivities and contrasts. And to accompany his many arias, Silla has three accompagnato recitatives, the last of which features a ravishing dialogue for the flutes with Bejun Mehta’s voice. It is admirable how Mehta translates the character’s many ambivalences into tone and expression.

As Postumio, Samuel Mariño is the prince charming of the evening. It shows the qualitative quantum claim in the subject of counters in general when Hagen Matzeit received the least conspicuous game of the councilor Lentulo from four positions. He, too, sovereign, minimally dry. On this evening, the variety of vocal timbres is astounding. With the men there are far more contrasts than between the voices of Eleonora Bellocci and Roberta Invernizzi, which are similar at the highest level.

In many other operas the actions of Silla’s closest advisers Metello and Crisogono would have been motivated by noble, vain or jealous motives. Here they attack the dictator with humane or Machiavellian arguments. Valer Sabadus conquers with arias and charisma. Graun gives him relatively short and yet seraphic cantilenas, but also lengthy recitative passages. In these, Sabadus sounds somewhat neutral to the voice of loyalty and sanity bestowed on him. He’s impressive against the rogue opposition, which is hard. The freedman Crisogono gets ambivalent down to the tips of his fingers and notes. Mert Süngü lurks with phenomenal presence. In a crazy bravura aria he uses coloratura that shines even more fascinating in the lower middle range than in the high register. The music comes directly from the feelings of the characters, at most Silla has a delicate chain mail of political-courtly rhetoric over his feelings. Also present was the twenty-strong Coro Maghini, brought into brilliant form by Claudio Chiavazza for his few performances. The long jubilation was mainly due to the singers, the musical performance of the Innsbruck Festival Orchestra under Alessandro De Marchi and the joyful astonishment at a late baroque opera, which fascinatingly stands out from the bulk of the work around 1750.

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