Composers: Heinichen
Compositions: Flavio Crispo
Performers: Il Gusto Barocco/Jörg Halubek
Catalogue Number: CPO CPO555111-2

Is Johann David Heinichen’s Flavio Crispo one of the greatest operas never performed? Well, at least until this world premiere performance in 2015 (some 300 years after the fact). It has everything going for it: brilliant writing for voices and instruments, novel orchestration, and the obligatory silly plot. And yet in an intrigue worthy of an opera, the two lead castrati – Senesino and Berselli – ganged up on Heinichen during rehearsals, accusing him of sloppy word-setting. It was apparently only in jest, but Heinichen’s employer the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland sacked ALL the Italian singers.

As intimated earlier, the libretto is daft – but delicious. Things kick off with the Roman Emperor Constantino (bass Ismael Arroniz) having already left his wife Minervina (the mother of Flavio Crispo, the latter sung by countertenor Leandro Marziotte) and married Fausta (contralto Alessandra Visentin), daughter of fellow emperor Maximilian. But Fausta in is love with Crispo, as is Imilee (mezzo Silke Gäng). He in turn is in love with English princess Elena (soprano Dana Marbach). Meanwhile, Flavio’s buddy Gilimero (soprano Nina Bernsteiner) is in love with Imilee. Fausta’s brother Massenzio (Tobias Hunger) is in love with nobody: he just wants to depose Constantino. See what I mean? But Heinichen’s writing, the singing and the playing by the strings, winds, keyboards, lute and harp are supremely engaging throughout.