Hymn of praise for La Serenissima’s sparkling revival of Lucio Papirio Dittatore in Buxton

editorial image

La Serenissima is the outstanding voice of Italian baroque opera in the UK. This year they brought to Buxton an opera by the prolific composer Antonio Caldara, who was famous throughout Europe in his day, writes Mavis Kirkham.

Lucio Papirio Dittatore was first performed in 1719 but has been long forgotten. La Serenissima have brought it back to sparkling life.

The plot, as so often in opera, is bizarre by modern standards: a hymn of praise to the wisdom of a Roman dictator whose lack of wisdom caused the problems in the first place. But it is really a hymn of praise to the Emperor of the time, Charles VI, for whose name-day it was first performed in Vienna. This opera also splendidly expresses many conflicting emotions as well as praise.

Rowan Pierce, soprano, was outstanding as Papiria, the daughter of the dictator and wife of Quinto, who won a great victory but against the dictator’s orders and was therefore condemned to death.

Owen Willetts and William Towers, both counter tenors, were impressive as Quinto and his father who was also advisor to the dictator. Eleanor Dennis, soprano, was just right as the soldier Comino, threatening mutiny in defence of Quinto but expressing love very tenderly. Gareth Brynmor John’s rich baritone was deeply expressive as Servilio.

The music is wonderful and the singers and orchestra really did it justice. The interplay between the voices and between the instruments and the voices is beautiful and sensitive. It was good to have the orchestra on stage alongside the action and be able to see them.

The choral work is also considerable and was well sung.

This was an excellent performance.

La Serenissima’s production of Lucio Papirio Dittatore can be seen at Buxton Opera House on July 13.