b San Vito degli Schiavoni, 5 Aug 1694; d Naples, 31 Oct 1744

Leonardo's Operas?
Thoughts upon "discovering" Leonardo Leo
Contributor: Janos Gereben

No, not the man of Vinci, the question is about Leonardo Leo (1694-1744), the Neapolitan composer, described in a program note tonight as "striving to keep up with a long list of commissions for operatic works to be performed in Bologna, Milan, Naples, Rome, Turin, and Venice." An impressive list, but I, for one, never heard any of the operas... or even saw them mentioned. In fact, if you go to the Webpage dedicated to to Leo - http://www.leonardoleo.com/ - it doesn't list operas.

The occasion for encountering L.L. was an American Bach Soloists concert in Belvedere (Marin), a program of Vivaldi, Guillemain, CPE Bach, Farina, JS Bach, Schmelzer... and Leo's Concerto for Violoncello, Strings, and Basso Continuo in D Major.

With William Skeen's virtuoso violoncello performance - backed by such worthies as violinists Elizabeth Blumenstock, Katherine Kyme, Carla Moore, Lisa Weiss, harpsichordist Corey Jamason and contrabassist Steven Lehnin - the concerto served as an exciting introduction to Leo, whose music features elements of Purcellian majesty, against a varied, imaginative background. I hope to find some of his operas around.

Also in the ABS program, an ad for the North American premiere of Lully's "Psyché" (his "most extravagant opera"). at the June 2007 Boston Early Music Festival, with Carolyn Sampson as Psyché and Karina Gauvin as Venus.

Incidentally, how much longer do we have to wait for return of "our own" Philharmonia Baroque and Nic McGegan to the War Memorial? Surely, they could do Psyché and throw in a couple of Leo's operas into the program. Not good box office? Do it as concert performances, allowing inexpensive tickets (on top of support from affluent Baroquians). Also, how about the Mark Morris-*staged* production of "Platée"? We could all use some mirth.
Janos Gereben/SF
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