Antônio Carlos Gomes took the novel O Schiavo (The Slave) and Italianized it for an 1899 premiere in the then capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro.
Recorded by Dynamic earlier this year and advertised as the world premiere on video, Lo Schiavo (in Italian) is a flawed work by a Brazilian composer who sought to pioneer authentically Brazilian concert and operatic music that dealt with national themes, in this case the oppression and enslavement of natives by the European colonizers.
Noble intentions not always lead to artistically satisfying results, in this case music that is by and large derivatively European and a libretto plagued by dramatic inconsistencies.
The Brazilian-Italian co-production is adequately respectful, blessed by authentic costumes for the Europeans and compromisingly discreet outfits for the natives who in real life would go around with little other than exposed skin and tattoos on their bodies.
Stage director Davide Garrattini Raimondi mercifully refrains from any Regietheater clichés and keeps things straight and clear in spite of a cast plagued by bad actors.
Musically the production of Gomes Lo Schiavo by the Cagliari Lyric Theatre is uneven. Soprano Svetla Vassileva manages a good performance of the tricky role of Itara, especially in the second act, and tenor Massimiliano Pisapia sings on pitch at lower dynamic levels but comes to grief when at full throttle. He does earn a well-deserved hand though after his act two aria Quando nascesti tu. The other cast members hardly rise to the standards of Italian provincial theatres. John Neschling conducts the orchestra, chorus and principals with a firm hand.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com