Review by Judith Caldwell
As part of Hamilton Arts Week, Hammer Baroque presented an in-concert version of Alessandro Scarlatti’s opera “Folly in Love”, Alessandro is now less famous than his son Domenico, but back in the day he was celebrated as a major composer of opera in the period before Handel and Gluck. His ‘Gli equivoci nel sembiante’ was composed in 1679 when he was only 18 years old, it is a pastoral comedy of love and yearning, a mischievous and jealous sibling and a long lost brother who looks just like our hero.
This leads to much confusion and mistaken identity even though one brother is a tenor and the other a baritone. All is explained and sorted suddenly at the end and the opera concludes with a quartet which is so good it is a shame there weren’t more such during the opera.
The four singers of Capella Intima – Sheila Dietrich soprano as the younger, jealous sister Lisette; Vicki St. Pierre alto as the heroine, Clori; tenor Bud Roach as Musical Director and hero, Eurillo; and David Roth as the long lost brother, Armindo whose role was written for a baritone – are all consummate musicians.They needed to be as there are no recordings of the work nor reports of historic performances, so each musician needed to develop their part from scratch. As Roth said he spent a lot of time alone with his tuning fork practising. The singers were accompanied by members of the Gallery Players of Niagara and the Nota Bene Baroque Players; these included Rona Goldensher and Julie Baumgartel, violins, John Wiebe, viola; Margaret Gay, cello and on theorbo, Terry McKenna and Borys Medicky harpsichord. This combination of instruments plus the music itself was enough to mentally return the audience to the grand salon in a Palazzo of the exiled Queen of Sweden in Rome where the work was first performed even though the Cotton Factory on Sherman was a bit barer.
Unfortunately the work was premiered during the Lenten season and Queen Christina had to protect Scarlatti from arrest by an enraged Pope. The first, longer Act of the opera sets the stage for confusion as Clori’s love for Eurillo is frequently tested by her conniving sister and the appearance of Eurillo’s look-alike and previously unknown brother, Armindo. Lisette manages to get Eurillo angry at Clori and Armindo woes her, much to Clori’s confusion. There is a lot of woe and heartache and seemingly unrequited love in Act I. There are also some wonderful arias by each of the singers.
Act II is even more confusing, so much so that it is now really comic and once again each singer has at least one superb aria. St. Pierre and Roach had the larger parts and both were wonderful. They were ably supported by Dietrich & Roth while the final quartet showed how well balanced all the voices were. Because of support for this program from multiple government arts programs all the musicians will actually get paid. This is not always the case for Hammer Baroque where musicians frequently perform as a labour of love. Hamilton is fortunate to have such dedicated and talented artists. Go to www.HammerBaroque.com for next season’s concerts.