|Being a vague and distant memory, the opera seria had disappeared. During the whole of the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century, it represented the abstract and artificial art of the castrates, supplanted by the emotional and “realist” singing of the Romantics, which still today represents the essence of our repertoire.
This Opera seria emerged from silence by means of a double resurrection: that of the Rossinian singing and of the baroque opera. It became then obvious that its vocalizations, ornaments, improvised cadences and forgotten language had nothing to do with a mere catalogue but, on the contrary, represented an ideal.
Born about 1700, this bel canto had been supplanted by Gluck’s dramatic genre and by the opera buffa by the end of the eighteenth century. The bel canto in the works of Porpora, Handel or young Mozart became the main object of the composition. Superhuman, the singer was the earthly messenger of a divine gift, master of an art that was opening the gates of heaven to the public who claimed in London in 1735: “One God, One Farinelli!”
But, what kind of art are we talking about? On the modern stage, for nearly half a century, the opera seria of Handel (Alcina, Ariodante, Giulio Cesare …) like that of Mozart (Mitridate, Lucio Silla …) have conquered a place that they did not enjoy even at their time. Rare until the 1980s, they are now applauded from Sydney to Aix-en-Provence and from the Staatsoper of Vienna to the Met of New York. But under what conditions? What are we really singing? How? What do we know about this lost bel canto, what can we learn from it and for what purpose?
To answer these questions, more delicate than it seems, the Foundation of Les Treilles has decided to dedicate the first session of its new Voice Academy to the opera seria. Under the direction of specialists, practice will respond to theory so that in the future, the beautiful chant will be heard again and even more forcefully.