What do the spirited and robust scores of Italian opera and the infinite joys of the country’s food have in common? Chef Rick Stein heads to Italy to find out. In this colourful special, top chef Rick Stein takes a lighthearted look at the role that food played in the creation of Italian opera and shows how music and food are intrinsically linked in Italy. He draws parallels between cooking and composing, noting how both involve the skilful combination of ingredients and how they share the common purpose of bringing pleasure to many and lifting the human spirit. Rick also explains why he thinks the music of three great Italian composers – Verdi, Puccini and Rossini – is connected to the food of the regions where they lived and worked. All were passionate about the delights of the dining table. Puccini loved the simple dishes from his native Tuscany, Verdi had his own farm, and many extravagant dishes are named after notorious gourmand Rossini.
In the famous Preface to Alceste (1767), Christoph Willibald Gluck and his librettist Ranieri de' Calzabigi posited a new direction for opera. They spoke of moving beyond Baroque forms, of striving for a new naturalism in opera. They wanted, in Calzabigi's lovely phrase, to liberate the language of the heart. Taken from the height of this Reform period, the arias on this disc reveal composers exploring and experimenting, at struggle and at play, as they create the new forms that bring to opera the noble simplicity of the Classical era.
The Royal Opera is a company based in central London, resident at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Along with the English National Opera, it is one of the two principal opera companies in London. Founded in 1946 as the Covent Garden Opera Company, it was known by that title until 1968. It brought a long annual season and consistent management to a house that had previously hosted short seasons under a series of impresarios. Since its inception, it has shared the Royal Opera House with the dance company now known as The Royal Ballet.