Because of its extraordinary length (even at its first performance it was divided and given on two separate evenings, July 12 and 14 1668) and because the music of acts 3 and 5 is missing in the Vienna library, Antono Cesti's opera Il Pomo d'oro is known more from history books than from performances. Engravings of the spectacular sets by Burnacini have been preserved, along with the complete libretto, and it is known to be the masterpiece of one of the greatest opera composers of the 17th century, yet the superb music remains almost unknown today even though substantial excerpts from the missing acts were discovered not long ago in Modena. Alan Curtis has now composed in the style of Cesti the most crucial parts of the text for which music is lacking and edited the rest according to modern editorial principles – quite different from those of the renowned musicologist Guido Adler, who had edited only the three surviving complete acts in 1896-7.
In order to encourage performances of this splendid music, Alan Curtis has made a shortened version, concentrating on the main story, the judgment of Paris. Two Hell scenes, with cornetts, trombones, bassoon and organ, are kept, but otherwise much of the philosophical debates of the immortals and the pompous praise of the Emperor and his Empire has been cut and the emphasis placed instead on the loves of the mortals, especially the central pair of couples: Aurindo who loves Oenone who loves Paris who loves Helen.