Carlo il Calvo 2020/21 1280x680 © .

Dramma per musica in three acts (1738)

Music by Nicola Antonio Porpora

Libretto by Francesco Silvani

Opera in concert in Italian

Sunday, 20. September 2020, 7 pm until 9 pm (no intermission)

Content / Background

The Neapolitan Nicola Antonio Porpora was the leading singing teacher of the 18th century and also composed over 60 operas. In his home town he taught the legendary castratos Farinelli and Caffarelli and was uncompromising in his pursuit of perfection. The timetable he set his pupils was rigorous. A pupil of Porpora was expected to spend four hours on various vocal exercises and one hour on literary study – all before lunch. Any leisure time the pupil may have had was expected to be filled with harpsichord practice and composing vocal music. Porpora composed for the theatres in Naples, Venice, London, Dresden and Vienna. In the latter city he also worked as a singing teacher and engaged a certain Joseph Haydn as his valet and accompanying pianist. In 1738 Porpora wrote the opera seria Carlo il Calvo for the Teatro delle Dame in Rome based on the life of Charles the Bald, king of West Francia and later Italy in the 9th century and a grandson of Charlemagne. Despite its name, ladies were not permitted to perform at the “Theatre of the Dames” because an edict issued by the pope allowed only men to appear on Rome’s stages. Consequently, the cast for the first performance of Carlo il Calvo was entirely male. Porpora’s opera is based on a Venetian libretto from 1699 and takes the audience to early mediaeval Europe where the quarrelling heirs of Charlemagne are fighting for power. In Porpora the eponymous hero is still a child whom the composer also allows to sing a few lines. His step-brother kidnaps the young Charles in order to seize the crown. Only the noble knight Adalgiso can stop the usurper of the throne. Porpora wrote Carlo il Calvo for some of his own pupils since it enabled him to precisely assess their abilities from a compositional standpoint. Among them was Anton Huber, only 19 years old, who, under his stage name Porporino, was later to become primo uomo at the royal opera in Berlin. Because he was both singing teacher and composer, the singing roles in Porpora’s œuvre are among the most beautiful, but also the most challenging, in Baroque opera literature.



George Petrou


Max Emanuel Cencic


Franco Fagioli


Julia Lezhneva


Bruno de Sá


Suzanne Jerosme


Nian Wang


Petr Nekoranec


Armonia Atenea