MYSLIVEČEK Adamo ed Eve
An almost exact contemporary of Haydn, the Czech composer Josef Mysliveček was a significant figure in the development of the Classical style. But despite a healthy recording catalogue, he is best remembered today as Mozart’s promiscuous friend (mentioned frequently in the composer’s letters), who would eventually lose his nose to syphilis. Can this new account of Mysliveček’s 1771 oratorio do anything to shift this unfortunate focus back on to the music?
Yes and no. Period band Il Gardellino are bright and pungent under director Peter Van Heyghen. Bassoons grunt and chuckle with plenty of husky character, and two trumpets and a horn add brilliance and stature. Strings are crisp and businesslike, propelling us into the action in a breathless, larky and unashamedly operatic overture. The pace slows a bit with the arrival of the voices. The oratorio opens in the immediate aftermath of the Fall, exploring the emotional reactions of a sulky Adam (not above throwing blame Eve’s way) and a more abashed Eve. Two angels – of Mercy and Justice – serve as guides, judges and interrogators.
Giovanni Granelli’s libretto is hard going, interested more in theological nitty-gritty than emotion, but the music has little patience with such academic sobriety, ignoring it in a sequence of attractive, often virtuoso arias. If Mysliveček lacks the emotional range of his younger friend Mozart, he makes up for it with plenty of colour and easy melodies.
The voices here almost all share a slightly pushed quality, which lends a little strain to music that demands the generous spin and tonal breadth of opera rather than more contained, baroque delivery. Tenor Valerio Contaldo makes a swaggering Adam but tends to bleat at moments of highest intensity. Luciana Mancini is balm to his fire – a lovely, smooth mezzo, albeit sometimes a little stern of tone. Roberta Mameli’s Angel of Justice is more expressively extrovert and occasionally runs a little wild in coloratura but Alice Rossi’s Angel of Mercy is supple and silky – a softening influence in the lovely duet ‘Non e crudel rigore’ with Mameli.
An attractive work, if Adamo ed Eva doesn’t quite banish memories of Mysliveček’s more secular pursuits, it adds a welcome new spiritual dimension to man and musician.