Josef Mysliveček (1737-1781)
Sarete al fin contenti / Mi parea del porto in seno, Demetrio
W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Overture, Mitridate, re di Ponto KV 87
Allegro – Andante grazioso – Presto
Bella mia fiamma, addio! / Resta, o cara KV 528
Collegium 1704 & Collegium Vocale 1704
Václav Luks | conductor
The concert was created in cooperation with Lnáře château.
Simona Šaturová | soprano
Markéta Knittlová, Petra Ščevková, Jan Hádek
Simona Tydlitátová, Veronika Manová, Martina Kuncl Štillerová, Adéla Štajnochrová
Dagmar Valentová, Eleonora Machová, Julia Kreichbaum, Jakub Verner
Hana Fleková, Libor Mašek
Katharina Andres, Petra Ambrosi
Julie Braná, Lucie Dušková
Györgyi Farkas, Kryštof Lada
Miroslav Rovenský, Jiří Tarantík
Simona Šaturová was born in Bratislava, Slovakia. She studied singing at the Bratislava Conservatoire and attended various master classes, most notably with the soprano Ileana Cotrubas and with Margreet Honig in Amsterdam.
Highlights of her 2019-20 season include the debut in the role of Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro in a Mozart – Da Ponte Trilogia production at the Théatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, and the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni and the solo part in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis with Manfred Honeck in Pittsburgh.
She is a frequent guest at La Monnaie. Apart from Violetta (La traviata, Andrea Breth, cond. Ádám Fischer) and Gilda (Rigoletto, Robert Carsen, cond. Carlo Rizzi), she has also performed there as Ilia (Idomeneo), Sandrina (La finta giardiniera), Servilia (La clemenza di Tito), Ismene (Mitridate), and most recently as Celia (Lucio Silla). Since her highly acclaimed success as Konstanze (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), she is also closely connected to the Aalto-Theatre in Essen.
Simona Šaturová has also earned an international reputation as a concert and oratorio soloist. She has appeared as a guest performer in New York, Dallas, Oslo, Detroit, Toronto, Granada, Istanbul, Japan, Israel, and Venezuela, at the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, the Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra Roma, the Vienna Spring Festival or the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.
Conductors with whom the soprano has worked include Christoph Eschenbach (Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, NDR Sinfonieorchester), Manfred Honeck (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic), Ádám Fischer (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment), Jiří Bělohlávek (Czech Philharmonic), Helmuth Rilling (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra), Iván Fischer, Christopher Hogwood (Münchner Symphoniker), Tomáš Netopil (Orchestra Accademia Nazionaledi Santa Cecilia), Philippe Herreweghe (Orchestre des Champs-Elysés), Sir Neville Marriner, Leopold Hager, Sylvain Cambreling, Gennadij Rožděstvenskij, John Fiore, Kent Nagano, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Rolf Beck, Martin Haselböck, and others.
Simona Šaturová has a special relationship with Mozart’s music: “His music has always been with me. His Mass in C minor has been an especially important work for me. I have already sung it more than 50 times all over the world.” In January 2009 she performed her favourite piece of music in the Sistine Chapel as a guest of Pope Benedict. She also sang it in Baltimore under the baton of Masaaki Suzuki and in Berlin with Jörg-Peter Weigle.
She is also featured on a number of CD recordings, including Dvořák’s Moravian Duets (2018) and Martinů’s Ariane (2016) by Supraphon. In 2009 the Orfeo label released her first solo recording with the NDR Radiophilharmonie under the title Haydn Arias. This CD was selected as “Editor’s Choice” by the magazine Gramophone. Her recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Christoph Eschenbach received the Supersonic Award and Preis der deutschen Schallplatten Kritik. Her CD Decade (2014) includes arias by W. A. Mozart and J. Mysliveček, several of them in world-premiere recordings.
Simona Šaturová was awarded the Walter and Charlotte Hamel Foundation Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in 2007 and the Czech Thalia Award for the best vocal performance of 2001.
The names Josef Mysliveček (1737-1781) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) always come to mind to music lovers who reflect on the rich traditions of music making in 18th-century Prague. The older master, Josef Mysliveček, was the son of a prosperous miller who left the city as a young man to seek acclaim in Italy, whereas Mozart came to the city in 1787 from Vienna as a foreigner anxious to savour the admiration for his musical talents that was uniquely intense in Prague. For a time, between 1770 and 1778, the two were intimate friends, and Mozart learned much from Mysliveček about musical composition. Mysliveček betrayed Mozart’s trust, however, by failing to fulfil a promise to use his influence to secure him an opera commission in Naples. As a result, Mozart terminated what had been one of the most treasured relationships he had ever maintained with a fellow musician.
In the summer of 1770, the fourteen-year-old Mozart was preoccupied with the composition of his opera Mitridate, re di Ponto, a work that had been commissioned by Count Karl von Firmian for presentation at the Regio-Ducal Teatro in Milan at the end of the year. In his mid-teens, a project as large as a three-act Italian serious opera was quite daunting for Mozart. In light of this, it is hard to over-emphasize the importance of Mysliveček’s acquaintance with the Mozarts at this time. There were a number of talented composers who might have been able to acquaint the young Mozart with the latest trends in operatic composition in Italy, either directly or indirectly, but only one—Mysliveček—was a daily visitor to the Mozart household and an intimate friend of Leopold Mozart at the time Wolfgang composed his Mitridate.
Mozart’s Mitridate could certainly be described as a Myslivečkian work and there is no mistaking the orientation of Mozart’s opera towards Mysliveček’s compositional procedures. The arias Mozart composed for Mitridate represent a significant stylistic shift from arias in such works as Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767) and La finta semplice (1769) and the concert arias he composed in Italy in 1770 before he began work on Mitridate. Mozart’s new approach featured much more careful planning with a view toward crafting areas of movement, repose, climax, and resolution that unfolded logically alongside the introduction of pleasing melodic ideas. Mozart’s work on the opera appears to have led him to study Mysliveček’s opera La Nitteti of 1770 carefully, and he borrowed a number of musical ideas from it to help him fill the work out. That Mozart would be interested in Mysliveček’s La Nitteti should not be surprising since the original commission Mozart received had in fact been for a La Nitteti opera. The Milanese commissioners later settled on Mitridate and it was that text that Mozart eventually set.
There is no question that Mozart used Mysliveček’s overture to Nitteti as the direct model for his overture to Mitridate. In fact, he opening motives represent a skilful simplification of the opening motives of Mysliveček’s overture. Mozart could not have found a better mentor in the composition for the type of three-movement opera overture that was still popular in Italy of the early 1770s (and had been the early 18th century). Mysliveček had been the most talented composer of orchestral music resident in Italy almost since the day of his arrival in 1763 – and after his death, that distinction was taken over by another Czech composer, Václav Pichl, not by any native Italian.
Josef Mysliveček completed twenty-six serious operas in Italian between 1766 and 1780, a larger number than any other composer in Europe active during the same period. As a northerner, Mysliveček was remarkable for his ability to penetrate the ranks of a select group of musicians who were mainly responsible for composing the serious operas performed in Italian theatres of the day. The vocal piece by Mysliveček chosen for this programme is largely unknown to modern audiences, even though it is certainly an outstanding vocal composition of its era: the virtuoso aria “Mi parea del porto in seno” from the opera Demetrio (1779). Demetrio was one of the most popular librettos by Pietro Metastasio and Mysliveček set it twice: first for Pavia in 1773 and again in 1779 for Teatro San Carlo in Naples in honour of the birthday of Queen Maria Carolina.
The second version of Demetrio belongs to Mysliveček’s final period of operatic activity, which is marked by a fresh absorption of styles popular at the Teatro San Carlo. This last period of composition before his death encompassed only three years of activity that nonetheless saw the composition of seven new operas. The works of this last period are the most varied in musical and dramatic format and exhibit a melodic style closest to that of the mature Mozart. The aria “Mi parea del porto in seno” comes from Act II of Demetrio and is sung by the heroine, Queen Cleonice of Syria, who finds herself emotionally torn by competing obligations to her lover Alceste and the welfare of the Syrian people. She spurns Alceste for the moment but of course is able to marry him by the end of the drama. The musical setting of the aria is marked by breath-taking vocal excursions suggested by its text, which compares her inner struggles to the sensation of being tossed about on a ship at sea during a storm.
The concert aria “Bella mia fiamma” was written during the second of Mozart’s trips to Prague in autumn of 1787, when he was present in the city to supervise the first performance of Don Giovanni. Its completion is recorded in Mozart’s own catalogue of musical compositions on 3 November 1787, five days after the première of the opera. The aria was prepared specifically for the use of the Prague singer Josefina Dušková, a great fixture of musical life in the city who appeared strictly as a singer in public concerts, never in operatic roles. She and her husband František were the owners of the famous Bertramka Villa, and according to Mozart’s son Karl Thomas (in a reminiscence written down in 1856), the aria was written there. Karl Thomas was not present to witness the incident, rather he would have learned about it when he lived in Prague after his father’s death during the 1790s. He claimed that Dušková locked Mozart up in a pavilion on the grounds of the Bertramka and told him that she would not let him out until he finished a setting of the text “Bella mia fiamma” that he had earlier promised to prepare just for her. According to Karl Thomas, Mozart did just as he was told, but added some exceptionally difficult passagework and swore that if Dušková proved herself unable to sing it perfectly at first sight, he would destroy the aria immediately. Whether or not the threat was in earnest, or if the anecdote is even true, the aria has certainly survived, and the account of its genesis recorded by Karl Thomas Mozart nearly 70 years after it supposedly occurred is in fact the only surviving documentation of any visit that his father ever made to the Bertramka Villa.
The reason for Dušková’s attraction to the text “Bella mia fiamma” is not known for certain. It was originally used in an obscure opera of Niccolò Jommelli written in 1772 to be sung by a male soprano in a male role. In the 1780s, the Jommelli aria is known to have been circulating in northern Europe, and it may have been included in Dušková’s personal music collection. The scene portrayed in the aria takes the form of an elaborate farewell of the character Titano, an ancient “King of Iberia,” to his beloved Proserpina, daughter of Queen Cerere of Sicily, who also happens to be Titano’s captor. Titano is under a sentence of death from the queen because he has dared to propose marriage to her daughter.
The background for the agonizing parting of the lovers is given out in the introductory recitative, which is lavishly accompanied by the full orchestra and followed by a vocal piece in the slow-fast format that audiences of the time thoroughly enjoyed for the spectacular musical climax that would come at the end. The mood of the slow section is based on Titano’s despair at the prospect of an imminent “bitter death.” The evocative word “bitter” is what appears to have suggested the exceptionally complicated “chromaticism” (i.e., added sharps and flats) introduced by Mozart in the vocal line. The style of the fast section is prompted by an exhortation to hurry up and get the execution over with as soon as possible. Of course, no execution is ever carried out. Audiences of the time could never doubt that the queen’s anger would be overcome and Titano would be able to marry Proserpina by the end of the drama.
Daniel Freeman is the author of the monographs Mozart in Prague and Josef Mysliveček “Il Boemo”: The Man and His Music.
Sarete al fin contenti, o miei pensieri!
Qual Nume infausto semino tra noi
questa Sete d’onor? Che giova al Mondo
di tal Gloria tiranna il reo Martire
se per viver a lei convien morire!
Mi parea del porto in seno
chiara l’onda, il ciel sereno;
ma tempesta più funesta
mi rispinge in mezzo al mar.
e son degna di perdono,
se pensando a chi la desta
incomincio a disperar.
My cares, you shall at length be satisfied!
What adverse god threw betwixt our loves
this cruel and unhappy bar of honour?
What gain we by this tyrant fame, while we,
to that live martyrs, die to all things else.
Quite overburdened with my grief
this heart, alas, finds no relief,
enlivening hope, where art thou now?
Ah, hapless I, I do not know.
Cruel fate, a speedy death through pity give,
or else from cruel grief relieve,
in this pain, my complaints are all vain,
the afflicted heart no peace can gain.
Bella mia fiamma, addio!
Non piacque al cielo di renderci felici.
Ecco reciso, prima d’esser compito,
quel purissimo nodo, che strinsero
fra lor gl’animi nostri con il solo voler.
Vivi: Cedi al destin, cedi al dovere.
Della giurata fede la mia morte t’assolve.
A più degno consorte … O pene!
unita vivi più lieta e più felice vita.
Ricordati di me, ma non mai turbi
d’un felice sposo la rara
rimembranza il tuo riposo.
Regina, io vado ad ubbidirti…
Ah, tutto finisca il mio furor col morir mio.
Cerere, Alfeo, diletta sposa, addio!
Resta, o cara, acerba morte mi separa,
oh Dio… da te!
Prendi cura di sua sorte,
consolarla almen procura.
Vado … ahi lasso!
Addio, addio per sempre.
Quest’affanno, questo passo
è terribile per me.
Ah! Dov’è il tempio, dov’è l’ara?
Vieni, affretta la vendetta!
Questa vita così amara
più soffribile non è!
Light of my life, farewell!
Heaven did not intend our happiness.
Before the knot was tied,
those pure strands were severed
that bound our spirits in a single will.
Live: Yield to fate and to your duty.
My death absolves you from your promise.
O grief! United to a more worthy consort
you will have a happier, more joyous life.
Remember me, but never let
stray thoughts of an unhappy lover
disturb your rest.
Majesty, I go in obedience to your will…
Ah, let death put an end to my raving.
Ceres, Alpheus, beloved heart, farewell!
Stay, dear heart, cruel death tears me away,
o God… from you!
Look after her,
comfort her at last.
I go… alas!
Farewell, farewell for evermore.
This anguish, this step
is hard for me to bear.
Ah! Where is the temple, where is the altar?
Dear heart, farewell forever!
A life as bitter as this
can be borne no longer!
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