Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Gomes was born in 1836, and after a modest success in his native country was sent to further studies in Italy, where he became after the premiere of Il Guarany, an opera that dealt with the interracial marriage between Pery, a native Brazilian prince and Cecilia, the white daughter of a Portuguese colonizer, one of the first non-Italian composers whose work was successful with the opera fans of that country.
A contemporary of Verdi, who praised Gomes as a “true musical genius”, several other operas followed, including the anti-slavery O Escravo (The Slave), arguably his masterpiece, and the first Brazilian Portuguese work to achieve international recognition, barely one year after the abolition of slavery in Brazil, in 1888.
The music of the overtures and preludes ranging from the early work Il Guarany to Maria Tudor, Condor, Fosca, Joana de Flandres, Salvador Rosa, and A noite do castelo, featured in the Naxos Classics 8574409 CD offers evidence of Gomes’ enormous gifts as an orchestrator of melodic, mood-setting, and often complexly harmonized music. The prelude to act four of O Escravo – subtitled Sunrise – initially depicts the tranquility of the Brazilian forest gradually building to a massive orchestral climax in music ostensibly created for the theater.
In the Naxos Classics 8574409 CD, Fabio Mechetti leads Brazil’s Minas Gerais Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance that combines precision, elegance, and passion, and draws the very best of this excellent ensemble. This reviewer nurtures the hope that, as part of its impressive initiative of anthologizing Brazilian music, Naxos might consider recording an album of operatic arias from the works of the immensely creative Antônio Carlos Gomes.
Rafael de Acha © 2023
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