The pasticcio, an operatic Frankenstein monster pieced together by a composer from pieces of his own (and/or others') operas, was not uncommon in the Baroque period (see Vivaldi's Bajazet, for example). The genre has been exploited in our own time, most notably by American Opera Theater, which made a new work, Ground, out of pre-existing pieces of music. Jörg Zwicker, director of the Austrian ensemble Capella Leopoldina, did something similar in dreaming up Almirante, a Baroque-ish libretto about a general named Almirante and his king's daughter, Elmira, who fall in love, are separated by war, and then reunited in an unlikely way. He selected duets for soprano and mezzo-soprano (Elmira and Almirante) by Bach, Handel, Fux, Henry Purcell, and Daniel Purcell, stringing them together in a libretto by Thomas Höft. The recitatives, translated into Italian by Carmen Grasso, were set to music by the group's theorbist, Ugo Nastrucci, in some cases adapting music of other composers and in others composing new music.
Almirante, D. York, L. Vierlinger, Capella Leopoldina, J. Zwicker
(released on August 26, 2008)
It seems like a lot of unnecessary work just to spruce up an hour-long recital of Baroque duets, but Zwicker explains his motivation in his liner essay: "Since I personally detest hotchpotch collections of music, I tried to spin that famous central thread throughout the programme," eventually discovering "a possible link between some duets" that became the basis for the invented storyline. To make matters more confusing, the well-matched pair of singers, English-born soprano Deborah York and mezzo-soprano Lydia Vierlinger, perform the duets in their original languages (Italian, English, or German) and the Italian recitatives are translated only into German in the booklet. So, you are back to the compelling reason to listen to this release -- clear, elegant, lithe performances of some beautiful duets. Although this is the first time either singer or this ensemble has been in my ears, we will be keeping our eyes out for their future projects.