Baroque oratorio “The Death of Abel” at the Podlasie Opera
The composer Pedro Antonio Avondano (1714-1782) was considered one of the most outstanding figures on the Portuguese music scene. He was also one of the most prolific European composers of the 18th century. Avondano was born in Lisbon on April 16, 1714 into a family of musicians. His father, a Genoese composer and violinist Pietro Giorgio Avondano (1692 -1755), arrived in Portugal in 1711, becoming the first violinist of the Royal Chapel of King João V. His mother, Maria Luisa Lomprét, was the daughter of a Frenchman from Nantes, Pierre Raguideau, a physician of the Portuguese court. The composer’s dual musical and family cultural background, both Portuguese and French, as well as his studies in Italy had an unquestioned influence on his work. They also allowed him to come into contact with the main artistic circles of cosmopolitan Europe of the 18th century.
Aside from being a violin virtuoso at the Royal Chapel, Avondano played an important role in the modernization of musical life in Lisbon, as an entrepreneur and innovator. From 1758, he lived in a stately residence in Rua da Cruz (Santa Catarina), which belonged to Conde da Ponte, the chamberlain of the court of King Joseph I. He founded the Assembly of Foreign Nations – an aristocratic club consisting of expatriate and Portuguese elites who met for concerts at Avondano’s home. The club laid the foundations for the first public concerts in the capital. The Avondano Assembly illustrates the socio-cultural changes of the time, when there was a need to create a “court society” in centers outside of the court’s influence.
The sacred drama “The Death of Abel” was written by the librettist Metastasio in 1732, a period of splendor and extravagance in which the Oratorio played a major role during Lent. Inspired by the Old Testament, the libretto is based on the story of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. A tragic text, faithful to tradition, describes the dramatic conflict of biblical history in great depth and with attention to detail. Abel represents the suffering, sacrifice and goodness of Christ, and the drama unfolds around the figure of Cain, who symbolizes sinful humanity.
The oratorio will be the last event of the first edition of the Metastasio Without Borders festival. It will be performed by the Portuguese ensemble Divino Sospiro, a formation established 20 years ago on the initiative of the Portuguese conductor and music director Massimo Mazzeo. The musicians aim to be faithful to the interpretation of the Baroque repertoire and to maintain the highest standards of musical quality of 18th-century scores. The cast includes five soloists: Raquel Camarinha (soprano), Ana Vieira Leite (soprano), Valentina Varriale (soprano), Filippo Mineccia (countertenor), Sergio Foresti (baritone). The concert will be conducted by Massimo Mazzeo.