OP0542. MONTEZUMA (Carl Heinrich Graun), w. Johannes Goritzki Cond. Deutsche Kammerakademie & Kammerchor Cantica Nova; Conchita Julian, Encarnacion Vazquez, Dorothea Wirtz, Maria Luisa Tamez, Ferdinando Cortes, Lourdes Ambriz & Ana Caridad Acosta. (Germany) 2-Capriccio 7085, recorded 1992, Slipcase Edition w.Elaborate 133pp. Libretto-Brochure in German, Italian, Spanish & English. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4006408600329
“The fate of Montezuma has inspired a number of operas, ranging from Vivaldi’s MOTEZUMA (1733) to Lorenzo Ferrero’s LA CONQUISTA (2005). Graun composed more than twenty operas, of which this is the only one currently available. This was and, to the best of my knowledge, remains the only recording ever made of the (almost) complete opera. Those who decide to take it can be assured that the music – here presented in slightly abridged form – is attractive enough, though not more, and that the performances…are perfectly adequate [and] well recorded.
Graun was principal court composer to Frederick the Great, himself a gifted amateur musician and composer of the libretto for MONTEZUMA: written by him in French, it was translated into the obligatory Italian. Graun doesn’t get much of a solo outing on record; Even though he died in the same year as Handel, the celebrations of the latter’s music in 2009 passed Graun by.
The fate of the Mexican Emperor Montezuma, who welcomed the invading Spanish in the belief that their leader Hernán Cortés was a reincarnation of the God-king Quetzalcoatl (possibly a post-conquest fiction) and was killed, according to Spanish accounts, in trying to quell a rebellion against his conquerors, has inspired interest ever since one of those Spanish conquistadores wrote a first-hand account of what happened. Aspects of Díaz’s account can be interpreted as sympathy for Montezuma, though his main purpose in writing seems to have been to defend the conquistadores against the serious - and largely true - charges brought against them by the Spanish Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas.
Though Graun gives Cortés his fair share of the best music, his first words on entering Montezuma’s city reveal him to be no hero, but a man of guile. After which his assertion of ruling in loyalty to his king and religion at the end of the aria sounds like a hollow afterthought.
One peculiarity of the opera is that it’s written entirely for soprano, mezzo and alto voices, all sung here by women, though the role of Montezuma, originally written for a castrato, would be ideal for a counter-tenor. The recording is more than adequate.”
- Brian Wilson, musicweb-international