N. A. Porpora
The legends surrounding Polyphemus the Cyclops, one-eyed son of Poseidon and the nymph Thoosa, are a popular theme in music and literature alike. Polifemo was the last work Nicola Antonio Porpora composed for the Opera of Nobility in London, a business in direct competition to Georg Frideric Handel‘s opera company. While Handel had to resort to adding renowned ballet troupes and fulminating choirs to his productions, in order to attract an audience, Porpora relied solely on Farinelli‘s vocal ability. This was especially true for Polifemo. In the same vein as Porpora united top castrato vocalists to bring his works to life on stage, Parnassus Arts Productions is proud to present some of the world's leading counter-tenors today, and once again revive the glory of days long gone.
Nicola Porpora, Italian composer and singing teacher. He entered the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo in Naples at the age of ten and studied there for approximately a decade; his first opera, Agrippina,was performed in the Neapolitan Royal Palace in 1708. It appears he held title of maestro di cappella to the Prince of Hessen-Darmstadt from 1711 until 1725, during which time his second and third operas, Flavio Anicio Olibrio (1711) and Basilio re d’oriente (1713), were produced in Naples. In 1714 he composed Adanna e Teseo to fulfill an operatic commission from the Viennese court, and Temistocle was premiered at the Hoftheater in Vienna in 1718; other works dating from this time include two serenatas, Angelica (1720) and Gli orti esperidi (1721), with texts by the young Metastasio. Between 1715 and 1721 Porpora served as a teacher of singing and composition at the Conservatorio di S. Onofrio in Naples and became famous as a singing instructor; his pupils included Farinelli, Caffarelli, and Salimbeni.
His first opera for Rome, Berenice regina d’Egitto (1718), was written with Domenico Scarlatti, followed by Porpora’s own Roman operas Eumene (1721) and Adelaide (1723) as well as his first opera to a libretto by Metastasio, Didone abbandonata (Reggio, 1725). He settled in Venice in 1726 and became maestro at the Ospedale degli incurabili until 1733.
Porpora was invited to London by a group of noblemen who were organizing the Opera of the Nobility (in competition with Handel); the company opened its season with Arianna in Nasso(1733), and Porpora composed four more operas for London before leaving in 1736 for Venice, where he took up his old post at the Incurabili the following year. After short intermezzi in Naples and Venice (where he was maestro di coro at the Ospedale della Pietà and the Ospedaletto), he was in Dresden as the singing teacher to Princess Maria Antonia, composing the opera Filandro (1747) for her birthday. If his rivals thus far had been Leonardo Vinci in Italy and Georg Friedrich Handel in London, he found a new nemesis in Dresden: Johann Adolph Hasse. After Hasse was named Oberkapellmeister, Porpora left for Vienna, where he not only taught the art of singing, but also composition to the young Haydn, who in exchange became his valet and keyboard accompanist. He returned to Naples in 1758, where he served again at the Loreto and the Conservatorio di S. Onoftio. Porpora’s output includes over forty operas, a large number of solo cantatas and oratorios, as well as some Masses and a few instrumental works.