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Christoph Willibald Gluck is best known by opera historians for his reforms of baroque operatic conventions, most notably Orfeo ed Euridice and Iphigénie en Tauride. In this week’s Opera House we’ll hear the earlier version of Ezio, an opera he later rewrote to conform to his new ideas about what operas should be—or not be. We’ll hear his original 1750 Prague version, which he heavily revised thirteen years later for a Vienna production. Based on Metastasio’s off-the- shelf libretto—which had earlier served Porpora, Hasse, Handel, Jomelli, et al., Ezio is a brew of politics and amorous intrigue.
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In the Roman forum, Emperor Valentiniano (countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic) and the people welcome Ezio (contralto Sonia Prina in a “trouser” role), who is returning in triumph, having defeated Attila and saved the empire. Ezio greets his sweetheart Fulvia (mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg), daughter of Massimo (tenor Topi Lehtipuu), who although close to the Emperor has never forgiven him for trying to seduce his wife and thirsts for vengeance. Massimo tells Ezio that in the latter's absence the Emperor has fallen in love with Fulvia and now insists on marrying her himself. The only way to prevent this is to assassinate the Emperor, but Ezio refuses to have anything to do with such a plot. Alone with his daughter, Massimo tells her that if Ezio will not kill the Emperor, she must first marry and then kill him. Fulvia rejects this idea with horror. Massimo decides that since neither Ezio nor Fulvia will kill Valentiniano, he will send one of his henchmen to do it. In the palace, Valentiniano's sister Onoria (soprano Mayuko Karasawa) interrogates Varo (tenor Julian Prégardien), captain of the Guards, about Ezio. It becomes clear that she also is in love with the victorious hero. Valentiniano is growing somewhat jealous of Ezio's fame and glory, but offers Ezio the honor of his sister's hand in marriage. Ezio replies that he cannot marry Onoria as he is in love with Fulvia. Valentiniano announces that he is in love with Fulvia himself, but Ezio doesn't care. The Emperor says he will marry Fulvia the next day, to Ezio's fury.
Outside the palace that night, Massimo waits to hear whether his henchman Emilio has succeeded in killing the Emperor. Fulvia enters with the news that someone tried to kill Valentiniano, but was unsuccessful. Emilio has been arrested, but Valentiniano believes him to have been acting on Ezio's orders, in which belief he is encouraged by Massimo. Fulvia knows her father is lying about Ezio plotting to kill the Emperor but cannot bring herself to denounce her father as a traitor. She tries to convince Ezio to flee, but he refuses such a cowardly course. Ezio is arrested. Fulvia thinks perhaps the best thing will be for her to pretend to accept the Emperor in marriage; that way she will be able to rescue Ezio. The Emperor has Ezio brought to him with Fulvia by his side as his betrothed. At first Fulvia tells Ezio that yes, she has agreed to marry the Emperor but finally has to admit it is a pretense, she still loves Ezio. Valentiniano has Ezio thrown into prison.
Onoria visits Ezio in the prison with an offer from the Emperor. If Ezio did not plot to kill Valentiniano, let him say who did and he will be released. Ezio refuses to betray others in this way, but Onoria begs him for her sake, as she loves him, to save his own life. Onoria repeats this conversation to Valentiniano and advises the Emperor to have Fulvia advise Ezio to reveal what he knows about the plot to kill Valentiniano. However, Ezio remains silent even so and is taken away. Varo announces that Ezio has been executed on the Emperor's orders (but this is not really the case). Onoria brings the news that Massimo's henchman Emilio with his dying breath insisted that he was not acting on Ezio's orders. In order to save her father from suspicion Fulvia announces that she is the one who was behind the assassination plot. Valentiniano is bitter - everyone around him seems to be his enemy with no one he can trust. Massimo, at the Capitol, is trying to instigate a popular revolt against the Emperor, who appears, alone and in despair at Fulvia's supposed betrayal. Massimo attempts to kill the Emperor, but Fulvia suddenly rushes in and throws herself between her father and Valentiniano, saving his life. Varo enters with Ezio, to general astonishment. Valentiniano can see now that Fulvia and Ezio really love each other and that he was wrong to try to part them. They will marry, and Valentiniano agrees to Ezio's entreaty for him to pardon the repentant Massimo. All celebrate the fortunate outcome of events.
Alan Curtis conducts Il Complesso Barocco in this 2011 Virgin Classics recording, CD number 0709292.
Ann Hallenberg sings Fulvia’s aria "Finché un zeffiro soave":
The WCPE Opera House is heard every Thursday evening at 7 o’clock in the Eastern time zone on 89.7 FM in central North Carolina, and we’re streamed Live online at on our Internet page or you can listen on WCPE's Android or iPhone apps.
— W. Robert Chapman, Host of the WCPE Opera House
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WAKE FOREST, N.C. (June 2, 2016) — TheClassicalStation.org announces weekly commentaries during Great Sacred Music. Host Rob Kennedy programs a mix of sacred choral and organ music for the program which airs each Sunday from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Eastern.
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An astute listener caught our esteemed Announcer Dick Storck in a rare error recently, referring to the "Doughnut Button".
As they say, much hilarity ensued.
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WCPE FM, The Classical Station, announces five grants totaling more than $8,000 from its WCPE Education Fund for the 2015–16 season.
The Metropolitan Opera Announces the 2015-16 Season
The Met’s 2015-16 Season Will Feature 26 Operas, Including Three Met Premieres, In Six New Productions and 18 Revivals!
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