Andrea Marcon -c- Marco Borggreve

Giacomelli: Merope

Andrea Marcon: "Merope will win".

After Vivaldi and Monteverdi, Andrea Marcon is just about the most successful musical export from the Veneto. He has been at home at ZaterdagMatinee for more than ten years. For early music, you had to be in the Netherlands, he knew: "I came here for the first time in my twenties. In Italy we were wild about Leonhardt, Brüggen and Bylsma at the time. My first concert was in Alkmaar. I remember thinking: holy cow, I'm performing in the land of my gods! This season, Marcon returns with Merope, the opera with which Geminiano Giacomelli conquered Venice in 1734.

Top cast
Marcon conducted many a Vivaldi opera in the Matinee. He showed how lively baroque opera could be. But... Merope? Marcon: "This is not a traditional Vivaldi opera, but an intense music drama based on Neapolitan 'gusto': the newest of the newest and therefore fodder for the mouths of the trendy Venetians. Moreover, Giacomelli had managed to get a top cast together, with the cast members Farinelli and Cafarelli: two superstars in the ultimate vocal battle! One of the evergreens is 'Quell'usignolo': a song that made its way via Farinelli to the bedroom of the Spanish king, who wanted to hear it every night. It remains incomprehensible that the opera was never resumed. There is not even a modern edition! We had to make a transcription ourselves: a titanic task. But: this will be a success, for sure. Bach triumphs even in poor performances. Here, the combination of score and performers has to be just right. And we have succeeded: the team that performs in Amsterdam will make Merope win again...".

The Story
The opera could not be performed last season due to corona restrictions, but is now being performed. It is a classic opera-serial: power-mad Polifonte murders the husband and children of Queen Merope of Messinia in ancient Greece. One son, however, is able to escape. When he later returns home as the rightful heir to the throne, Epitide - a role sung by Farinelli - the mother does not recognise him and wants to have him killed. In the end, she becomes convinced of his true identity. The slow and melancholic 'Sposa, non mi conosci' (You don't recognise me, my husband) was Farinelli's smashing hit.

The special cooperation with the Matinee
So Holland was once Marcon's model country. The ZaterdagMatinee in particular is close to his heart. Marcon: "Our cooperation is truly unique. Normally, I make a programme and the house decides whether or not it will be on the bill. Here, it's the other way round: if artistic director Kees Vlaardingerbroek gets an idea that has to do with Italian Baroque, there is a good chance that he will knock on my door. The whole production then grows out of that ping-pong game. It's a way of working that requires a lot of time and discussion, but (laughing) for us that's already half the fun."

With thanks to Sofie Taes and Willem Bruls

Andrea Marcon (c) Daniele Caminiti
Andrea Marcon (c) Daniele Caminiti

NTR ZaterdagMatinee, 5 February 2022, 13.00 hours
La Cetra Barockorchester Basel
Andrea Marcon - conductor

Magdalena Kožená - mezzo-soprano (Merope)
Kangmin Justin Kim - countertenor (Epitide)
Carlo Vistoli - countertenor (Licisco)
Beth Taylor - mezzo soprano (Argia)
Vasilisa Berzhanskaya - mezzo soprano (Trasimede)
Emiliano Gonzalez Toro - tenor (Polifonte)
Rachele Raggiotti - mezzo soprano (Anassandro)

Giacomelli - Merope (Dutch premiere)

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In 2008 Andrea Marcon conducted Vivaldi's opera Orlando in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee. Listen to the recording on the ZaterdagMatinee site.

Photo: Marco Borggreve

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