Bruce Ford - Alessandro, Jennifer Larmore - Poro, Laura Claycomb - Cleofide, Mark Wilde - Gandarte, Dean Robinson - Timagene. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, David Parry - conductor
|The premiere of Alessandro nell’Indie in Naples in 1824 brought Pacini one of the most anxious evenings of his career. The audience sat on its hands, unwilling to approve or disapprove until it had heard the music a second time. Indeed, at the end of the evening the balance appeared to be dipping in the composer’s disfavour, for ill-suppressed hissing circulated around the auditorium. The eventual success was owing to the personal intervention of King Ferdinand IV at the second performance. He led the applause, so ensuring a triumph that kept the opera on the boards for months and established Pacini as one of the city’s favourite composers. A re-handling of a libretto by the 18th-century dramatist Metastasio, Alessandro nell’Indie tells the story of Alexander the Great’s campaign in India, of his defeat of the Indian king Porus (Poro), and of his infatuation with an Indian queen, Cleophes (Cleofide). It is a vehicle for gorgeously over-the-top bravura singing as the characters confront each other, deceive each other, reproach each other, plead with each other. Seemingly inevitable tragedy is finally averted as they vie in displaying idealistic generosity, fidelity and magnanimity. Alessandro, determined not to be outdone, becomes the quintessential 18th century ‘benevolent despot’.
The 3CD set comes with a lavishly illustrated book including a complete libretto with an English translation. Jeremy Commons gives a detailed account of the story behind the opera and its composition.