Notes and Editorial Reviews
Most of Vivaldi's operas were composed for Venice, but between 1718 and 1720 he was in the employ of the Austrian governor of Mantua, and he composed Tito Manlio for the governor's wedding celebration. The wedding never took place, but the opera was performed in 1719. It's a remarkable work, particularly so when you discover that it was written in five days. The Mantuan court was very wealthy, and this is clear from the lavish scoring. In addition to the usual strings, Vivaldi uses horns, trumpets, oboes, bassoon, two different registers of flutes, timpani, and viola d'amore; at times these instruments are used in combination with voice, as obbligato. The arias and the instruments used with them help define the characters. While rarely of
the depth of psychological study found in Handel's finest operas, Tito Manlio offers up human portaraits of interesting people.
The plot: Tito is the Roman Consul. The Romans and the Latins don't get along, and that's a real issue because Tito's daughter Vitellia was engaged to Geminio, the Latin leader, and Tito's son, Manlio, was engaged to Geminio's sister, Servilia. Manlio is sent by Tito to hang out and get info from the Latins but is forbidden to engage in combat. Geminio, though on the verge of making peace, is enraged by Manlio and calls him a coward; a fight ensues, in which Manlio kills Geminio. Tito sentences Manlio to death and Vitellia agrees, wanting vengeance; Servilia wants mercy for Manlio. Eventually, the legions demand Manlio's reprieve and he and Servilia are reunited, while Vitellia agrees to marry Lucio, the new leader of the Latins who loves her. Tito bows to the legions' decision and agrees that Manlio should live and Rome and Latin-land are happy.
There's as much anger as grief in this opera, as much heartfelt longing as desire for war and revenge. There are four grand performances here (out of eight), and they are four of the five major roles. Bass Nicola Ulivieri's Tito is potent and commanding, as convincing when angry as when miserably condemning his son to death. Soprano Karina Gauvin's Manlio is ideally sung and acted; her technique is sound and her involvement, particularly in the recitatives, is thorough. Her reading of "Ti lascerai gli affetti miei" in the last act, with its muted oboes and bassoons, is stunning--and what a marvelous, mournful sound those winds make! As the opera's highest voice, she also is easy to pick out among the four other women--all darker-hued mezzos.
Marijana Mijanovic's Vitellia is terrific--she really knows how to get mad--and her ease with coloratura, coupled with a unique timbre, gives her impersonation great character. Her second-act "Grida quell sangue", a vengeance aria, is startling. Anne Hallenberg's Servilia has one of the score's most haunting arias--"Tu dormi in tante pene", with a viola d'amore obbligato that is truly troubling in its acidity--and she is superb here and elsewhere. Her second-act "Andro fida, e sconsolata", a Siciliana with recorders, is equally fine.
Deborah Beronesi's Lucio is a bit bland, and it's a pity--the role contains lots of good music. Tenor Mark Milhofer does not have enough time to make an impression as Geminio (lots of recitative and one very short aria); Christian Senn is fine as the comic Lindo, and Barbara del Castro's Decio is a bit faceless. (It needs a countertenor's voice.) Conductor Ottavio Dantone brings out the colors in Vivaldi's score, and his period-instrument group is a virtuoso ensemble, in particular the obbligato instrumentalists. In short, if not a masterpiece of dramatic coherency and power, this certainly is chock-full of fine music, and just the way in which Vivaldi varies his scoring is well worth hearing.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Tito Manlio, RV 738 by Antonio Vivaldi
Nicola Ulivieri (Bass Baritone),
Karina Gauvin (Soprano),
Ann Hallenberg (Mezzo Soprano),
Debora Beronesi (Mezzo Soprano),
Marijana Mijanovic (Alto),
Christian Senn (Bass Baritone),
Barbara Di Castri (Mezzo Soprano),
Mark Milhofer (Tenor)
Written: by 1719; Italy
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