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First performed at the Teatro Regio, Turin, on 5 March 1876, Lauro Rossi' penultimate opera Cleopatra caught the public' attention in the wake of Verdi' Ai . Like that better-known work, it contains some wonderful arias and set pieces, including a marvell
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Verdi's Aida came five years before this Cleopatra. And that's why this opera is doomed. There is absolutely no sense of Egypt. No colorful instrumentation, no exotic harmonies. You could have told me the name of the opera was Maria Antoinetta or Caterina Sforza or Mata Hari, and I wouldn't have doubted you. Frequent mentions of Roma and Cleopatra should ground us in ancient Mediterranean history, but the score doesn't have any such tinta. Over the years, I've heard the major operas of Gomes, and this Cleopatra sounds as if it is several rungs below Gomes. It certainly never makes it up anywhere near Boito's Mefistofele or Ponchielli's La Gioconda. Some operas are obscure because they are very weak and deserve to be obscure. I'm afraid this opera is in that category.
The star is Dimitra Theodossiou, and she certainly makes some exciting sounds. She throws herself into the part with total commitment with some thrillingly loud and explosive delivery. She has a big aria in the second act that sounds like it could and should be excerpted and taken up by other sopranos in concerts and recordings. The audience certainly appreciates it. The tenor Allesandro Liberatore as Marco Antonio has some vocal problems and doesn't impress. Paolo Pecchioli as Ottavio Cesare doesn't have much stand-out music to sing.
I went to YouTube and found some short clips from this performance. It made me want to hear the complete performance. After hearing this butchered version, I am still wishing I could hear a complete performance of this work.