Italy....It was here on the eve of the 17th century that a new age in music was born. The genre of opera appeared and flourished and was soon to occupy a leading place in the pantheon of music and to become the main object of the public’s attention and love (at this time other lay genres were born: the oratorio, the cantata, the concerto, the sonata). There occurred an unseen heretofore breadth and freedom in musical-expressive means. The improvement in performance skills in vocal art (belcanto) and in playing stringed instruments seemed to surpass all conceivable limits of virtuosity. This one and a half century, during which Italy gave a most powerful impulse to world music culture, converted music into a genuinely independent art form, freeing it from the fetters of purely applied and entertainment art.
Meanwhile how many at one time famous names are now either semi-forgotten by, or totally unknown to our listeners! Many of them Bolshoi Theatre audiences will have a chance to discover thanks to the international music festival A Journey into the World of the Baroque, the Theatre’s first venture in this field.
A representative of the age of early baroque Andrea Falconieri (1585-1656) — court lutenist at the princes’ and royal courts of Italy, the author of madrigals, dances and songs, in which he sought for a “new expressiveness”. Followers of the Venetian opera school, founded by the great Monteverdi — Maestro di Capella at St. Mark’s Cathedral Antonio Sartorio (1620s-1681) and the monk Marc’ Antonio Cesti (1632-1669), whose religious vocation did not prevent him from creating grandiose operas for the courts of the Medicis and the Emperor of Vienna (the sumptuousness of some of these productions was to be a legend for many decades to come). Composer and teacher Giacomo Antonio Perti (1661-1756) — Maestro di Capella at St. Peters, in Rome, and for many years director of Bologna’s Accademia Filharmonica. He was as famous as the teacher of his many talented pupils as he was for his music. Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) — the first representative of a glorious musical dynasty, founder of the Neapolitan school of opera which for a hundred years represented Italian music all over Europe. Giovanni Batista Bononcini (1670-1747), a composer from yet another musical family, who toured all the major European capitals, competing successfully with Handel in London. Representative of the new generation of Italian opera, the composer and singing teacher Nicolo Porpora (1686-1768), who trained many famous 18th century singers and at the end of his life was teacher to Hayden. Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783), a German composer who made famous Dresden’s Royal Theatre, friend to Johann Sebastian Bach but who, for nearly all his life talked and thought in Italian. Riccardo Broschi (1698-1756), everywhere accompanying in his wanderings his brother Carlo — the most famous castrato singer of his time (the latter performed under the pseudonym Farinelli).
The works of the above composers may be heard at concerts on 26 and 30 October at the Bolshoi Theatre New Stage, together with concertos and arias by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741); a well-known master of the concerto, Vivaldi also achieved fame as a writer of operas.
Appearing at these concerts will be Bolshoi Theatre Young Opera Programme (MOP) soloists and a young singer from Abkhazia, who has already made a name for herself, Kristina Eshba (soprano).
The Questa Musica Ensemble, which will be accompanying the young Bolshoi Theatre soloists, is a relatively young (it was founded in 2008), but very promising experimental group of young musicians. Apart from the music of the baroque, the ensemble’s repertoire also includes works by 20th century and modern composers. One of the most striking viola players of the new generation and winner of international competitions, Sergei Poltavsky, will perform the solo on a baroque stringed instrument in Vivaldi’s concerto for viola d’amore and strings.