Label: Warner Classics / Erato
Diana Damrau, Désirée Rancatore, Daniela Barcelona, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Genia Kühmeier
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Luca Ronconi, director

In 1778 Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta became the first work to be performed at the Milanese theatre later known as the Teatro alla Scala. Despite this honour, Europa riconosciuta (Europa recognised) fell immediately into neglect and remained unperformed for 226 years until 2004, when Riccardo Muti, then Music Director of La Scala, chose it to reopen the legendary theatre after three years of renovation work.

It tells the story of Princess Europa, who is shipwrecked with her husband Asterio, King of Crete, on the coast of her native Tyre. She has returned there so that she can claim back the throne from her cousin Semele. At La Scala, Europa was sung by soprano Diana Damrau, who has appeared on numerous Erato recordings and DVDs. It is a dazzlingly virtuosic role that rises even higher than the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte – Damrau’s signature role at the time this recording was made. “I love Salieri,” she has said. “He was an important man and a musical authority in Vienna, a teacher and an heir to Gluck as a successful opera composer. And, like, Mozart he was a dramatist in music. Europa Riconosciuta is masterly in its construction and builds up step by step. It’s a thriller!” Further vocal thrills were provided by another radiant coloratura soprano Désirée Rancatore, by two further Italians – the heroic mezzo Daniela Barcellona and the elegant lyric tenor Giuseppe Sabbatini – and by the creamy-voiced Austrian soprano Genia Kühmeier.

The spectacular, Classically-inspired production was created by two major figures in Italian theatre, the director Luca Ronconi (who died in 2015) and the designer Pier Luigi Pizzi. It showed off La Scala’s new technical facilities to impressive effect – running to 25 rapid scene-changes in the two-hour course of the opera.