Performed in Malta for the first time since their inception, ABOS: Opera Highlights, sheds light on one of the most prolific Maltese composers of yesteryear: Girolamo Abos.
Words by Albert-G. Storace
Festivals Malta proudly presents a concert of highlights from operas by Girolamo Abos. Taking place on the 7th December at 7:30pm at the Inquisitor’s Palace in Birgu, the concert will feature Les Bougies Baroques, a period instrument ensemble directed by the Maltese founder, harpsichordist Ian Peter Bugeja who is based in London. The soloists accompanying the ensemble are soprano Nicola Said, mezzo-soprano Clare Ghigo and countertenor Cenk Karaferya.
Abos was a prolific composer born in Valletta in 1715 of a French father and a Maltese mother. He showed musical promise at a very young age and was sent to Naples to study music. Naples was then one of the most important centres in Europe where music reigned supreme and attracted the best from Italy and elsewhere. Abos eventually built up a successful career and received commissions to write operas which were sung by the finest singers of the time all over Italy’s main opera houses and beyond, such as London and Vienna. Abos never returned to his native island and died in 1760 at the relatively young age of 45.
Thanks to local and foreign musicologists, the works of Abos, forgotten for many years, were re-discovered in, among others, the Mdina Cathedral music archives. They were edited and performed in various revival concerts of music by Abos and other Maltese composers of the Baroque period and even later. Ian Peter Bugeja wanted to do something different. Bugeja feels it is about time that a concert consisting entirely of opera arias by Abos should take place. For a very long time, the main awareness of Abos’s music has been via his admittedly magnificent Stabat Mater. Arias from his operas had only sporadically surfaced here and there as part of a number of works by different composers, hence this is the very first concert completely dedicated to music by Abos.
The programme will include the Overture to Pelopide (1747) and the Sinfonia in G Major (c.1750-60). Between these two orchestral pieces there will be excerpts from operas such as Artaserse (1746), two from Tito Manlio (1751) and one from Pelopide. The last vocal excerpts are from Arianna e Teseo (1748), Alessandro nell’Indie (1747). Another one from Tito Manlio and Lucio Vero (1752). These operas are all mature works spanning the years 1748-52. These compositions have been especially and directly reconstructed for the occasion from Abos’s manuscripts. They will be performed together for the very first time since their inception in the 18th century.