Fra Diavolo is Auber’s best-known (and most recorded) work. Dario Salvi’s interpretation of the overture compares favorably against the others I’ve heard. And in many ways, it’s the version I prefer. Salvi has immersed himself into Auber’s music — and not just his operas. That deep understanding, I think, gives these performances an added lift.
The overtures to the other operas don’t disappoint. Le Duc d’Olonne, Le Philtre, and Actéon won’t be staged at the Met anytime soon (if ever). But there’s plenty of great music to enjoy in these neglected operas. Auber was a master of both grand opera and opéra-comique. He knew how to write melodies, and how to orchestrate them for his intended audience.
Although the series is primarily about Auber’s overtures, some of his other works are included. This volume features La Fête de Versailles, ‘Divertissement de Versailles’. this 26-minute work was used to celebrate the opening of the museum at the Palace of Versailles in 1837. Auber masterfully weaves together melodies from many sources to tell the history of Versailles.
Auber references music from the court of Louis the XIV, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, as well as — of course — some of his own operas. The music accompanied a masque, and so is episodic by nature. And yet it all hangs together quite well. Part of the fun of listening to this piece is finding out all the quotes and the pastiches Auber includes. It took me more than a few listens.
The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under Salvi’s direction has a tight, clear sound. It can be light and transparent as the music requires. But the orchestra can also deliver when darker, more dramatic sounds are needed.
Well done. Again!
Daniel-François-Esprit Auber: Overtures, Vol. 4
Le Duc d’Olonne, Fra Diavolo, Le Philtre, Actéon, Divertissement de Versailles
Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Dario Salvi, conductor