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Sacchini Oedipe à Colone

Naxos 8.660196 [2005: 68 + 45 mins]

Gaspare Sacchini (1730-86) is another rediscovered master demanding attention. By 1768 he became director of a Venice conservatoire and numbered Nancy Storace amongst his singing pupils. He lived in London during the 1770s.

Oedipe à Colone, his recognised masterpiece, was premiered posthumously in 1787 and had some 600 performances before it lapsed into obscurity after the 1843 revival, when it was admired by Berlioz, who praised its sudden mood changes from rage to tenderness as being impossible to render better.

It takes the story of Oedipus in old age with accompanied recitatives and variety of form dictated by the drama. With the expected dance scenes, 'it succeeds in uniting the rival trends of contemporary opera within a French dramatic structure' (Ryan Brown). I found Oedipe à Colone absorbing and a real discovery.

Track by track synopses are given and full text in French only; very manageable with a paperclip to aid turning from one to the other, and for web listeners there are parallel French/English texts which are invaluable. This performance, recorded at the University of Maryland in May 2005, is fine.

Another Naxos hit and an amazing bargain - highly recommended.

Peter Grahame Woolf