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The Sunday Opera: Giovanni Battista Ferrandini's "Catone in Utica"

The libretto for this week’s Sunday Opera (1/29 3:00 p.m.) is arguably one of the most used libretti in all of opera. Pietro Metastasio wrote a three-act look at the conflict between Cato the Younger and Caesar for an opera written by Leonardo Vinci in 1727. That same libretto, with a few directorial alterations over the years, would go on to be used another 26 or so times by 1791. Probably, the best-known version of “Catone in Utica” is by Handel from 1732, but we’re going a rarer setting by Giovanni Battista Ferrandini from 1758.

Cato (Kobie van Rensburg) represents the conservative movement that wants to hold on to the long-lost glory of Rome and is in direct odds with Caesar (Robert Crowe) who represents progress and more modern Rome of 46 BC.

Caught in their conflict are Cato’s daughter, Marzia (Simone Schneider), who is secretly in love with Caesar and Arbace (Johnny Maldonado), a Numidian prince who is Cato’s friend and is in love with Marzia. Also involved are Emilia (Sandra Moon) who is seeking vengeance for her husband Pompey’s death and Fulvio (Florian Simson), a Roman legate in Caesar’s camp.

Christoph Hammer is the conductor on this world premier recording, and he’s leading the Munich Neue Hofkapelle.

Stay tuned after the opera for a bit of ballet and Igor Stravinsky’s three-scene retelling of the Orpheus legend. In this recording you’ll hear the Royal Concertgebouw with Neeme Jarvi conducting.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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