René Clemencic / Clemencic Consort

Velasco: La Purpura de la Rosa

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A variety of claims have been made for the historical importance of La púrpura de la Rosa, including it being the first opera performed in the Americas, and the first opera composed in the Americas, but there is considerable scholarly debate about those claims, as well as uncertainty about who actually composed it. What's known with certainty is that Spanish composer and court organist Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco mounted a performance of it in 1701 in Lima, Peru. The only surviving copy of the score includes only the vocal lines, so its effectiveness largely depends on the skill of the musicologist or performer who creates a fully realized performing edition. The version by René Clemencic is more than an hour shorter than those of Andrew Lawrence-King and Gabriel Garrido, and fails to make an especially strong case for the work, especially when it is compared to the sophistication and inspiration of operas that had been produced throughout the previous century in Venice by composers like Monteverdi, Cavalli, Cesti, and Legrenzi. It has some lovely and charming moments, particularly the choruses, the inventive and beautifully structured ensemble, "Ay de aquel que en principio de celos," and Venus' lament, but it lacks the coherence, depth, and wit of the Venetian operas. The unevenness of the performances doesn't do the work many favors, either. Soprano Mieke van der Sluis as Venus, tenor Mark Tucker as Adonis, and bass Pedro Liendo as Marte sing with polish and professionalism, and some of the smaller roles are well taken, but some of the cast seems to be made up of amateurs. The Clemencic Consort plays with competence but without particular distinction. Ensemble Vocal la Cappella sings with grace and warmth. The sound is clear and nicely balanced, but a little thin.

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