Lorenzo Tozzi

Leonardo Leo: Decebalo

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Neapolitan composer Leonardo Leo (1694-1744) is little known today, but in his time was regarded as a successor to Alessandro Scarlatti. He was known for his commitment to middle Baroque conventions and for his resistance to the reforms that would soon sweep Italy -- a more melodic style with simpler, less strictly contrapuntal accompaniments. Leo wrote Decebalo in 1743 to celebrate the birth of the daughter of the king of Naples. Its labyrinthine plot involves the conflict between the first century Roman emperor Domitian and Decebalus, the king of the Dacians. The opera (or "Theatrical Feast") consists of alternating recitatives and arias; there are no ensembles until the finale, a very brief quintet for the soloists. The predictability of the structure and the "stand and deliver" nature of the arias create little dramatic tension, and while the arias offer opportunities for impressive vocal fireworks, the work as a whole feels static and has little musical variety. Lorenzo Tozzi, who also reconstructed the score, leads a somewhat ragged live performance by the Romabarocca Ensemble. The opera features two sharply contrasting countertenors: Adrian George Popescu, whose robust and agile voice brings drama to the title role, and Angelo Manzotti, whose voice is unnervingly spectral. The remaining singers, sopranos Julia Surdu and Ruxandra Ibric Cioranu and bass Sorin Dumitrascu, are more than adequate, with solid voices and respectable technique, but they aren't able to breathe much excitement into the score. The sound isn't bad for a live recording and has with minimal distracting audience noise.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Decebalo, opera
1
3:00
2
2:40
3
6:50
4
3:15
5
6:26
6
3:36
7
4:40
8
1:15
9
1:47
10
4:03
11
1:00
12
4:45
13
2:31
14
6:54
15
0:32
16
2:46
17
0:40
18
3:01
19
2:24
20
2:25
21
4:11
22
1:31
23
1:59
24
4:30
blue highlight denotes track pick