in when illness struck the advertised Greta, not even needing the crutch of having the score in hand. Her attractive soprano was perhaps one size too small for the company but, astonishingly, she had the measure of the role in its entirety despite the brief time she had to prepare. deborah jones
Austria Innsbruck For the first-time in its 40-year history the innsbruck festival of early music offered a 19th-century opera, although it chose one with a significant 18th-century component: Didone abbandonata (Turin, 1823), an early work by Mercadante with a libretto by Metastasio that had first been set 99 years before. As with Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito the libretto had to be brought up to date to reflect changes in musical form and style. Here the challenge was to permit Mercadante to write an opera that looked and acted like one by the ever-popular Rossini. The prominent librettist Andrea Leone Tottola made the necessary textual alterations.
At its August 10 opening, the Innsbruck production demonstrated that in treating the familiar story of Dido and Aeneas, Mercadante and Tottola discharged their responsibilities skilfully, producing a tuneful, dramatically potent work. The Rossini affinity is established in the overture, which has a characteristic ‘crescendo’ and the familiar complement of percussion instruments, and it continues in the vocal numbers. A notable achievement is the multi-sectional Act 1 finale, which deals with the consequences of a failed attempt on Aeneas’s life. Another striking piece is a highly dramatic trio in Act 2 for Dido, Aeneas and the Moorish king Jarba, who has designs on Dido but whom she scathingly rejects. Unusually for Metastasio, Didone ends tragically, with a solo scene in which the abandoned queen throws herself into the smouldering ruins of her palace. Mercadante’s version is cast in two-part aria form, with a lovely passage in which Dido laments the gods’ pitiless nature, followed by an ornate cabaletta. The latter may lack the weight of comparable examples by Donizetti for doomed heroines, but it brings the opera to a gripping close.
If the scene failed to make its maximum ef fect, it is because Jürgen Flimm’s staging had Jarba become unhinged and start murdering subsidiary characters, thereby deflecting attention from Didone, on whom all eyes should have been focused. Otherwise, the production, with sets by Magdalena Gut that, with the help of a turntable,
■ Mercadante’s ‘Didone abbandonata’ in Innsbruck suggested diverse locales, was satisfactory enough.
The soprano Viktorija Miškūnaitė brought vocal agility and dramatic flair to the title role, despite a couple of harsh moments. Aeneas is a trouser role, and Katrin Wundsam, a gifted mezzo, sang it beautifully, abetted by an engaging stage presence. Jarba was written for a tenor with a baritonal quality, which
Opera, December 2018