Notes and Editorial Reviews
A marvellous selection of some of the very best music from one of Vivaldi’s best operas, in an already classic modern performance.
I can think of only one possible reason why any lover of Vivaldi or baroque opera would not wish to possess this CD of highlights from L’Olimpiade: because he or she already owns the complete recording from which they are taken. That complete recording – still available, so far as I know, as a 3 CD set on OP 30316 – was volume 1 in one section (‘Opere teatrali’) of the huge Vivaldi Edition, conceived by Alberto Basso and Naïve, aiming to record all the works (some 450 of them) by Vivaldi which are preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Turin. When the complete recording of L’Olimpiade
was issued - in, I think, 2003 - it was received with almost uniformly unqualified praise.
In L’Olimpiade, Vivaldi set a libretto by Metastasio which others before and after him also set – including Caldara (1733), Pergolesi (1735), Leonardo Leo (1737), Niccolò Jommeli (1761), Josef Myslivec?k (1778), Cimarosa (1784) and Paisiello (1786). The story is set in Ancient Greece, the events taking place at the time of the Olympic Games. The plot is of characteristically baroque complexity but, reduced to essentials, concerns the rivalry of two suitors, Megacle and Licida, for Aristea. The opera is studded with beautiful arias; a disc of highlights inevitably involves much loss but insofar as it might encourage the attention of listeners a little wary of tackling the complete work it is obviously justified. The packaging from Naïve – typically stylish – provides all texts and translations (into French and English) and a comprehensive plot summary, so it is easy to see how the extracts we hear fit into the overall scheme of things. One minor quibble is that the booklet is very short on background information to the opera.
But such a quibble fades into complete insignificance when one starts listening to such lovely music so beautifully sung! Sit back and enjoy the heavy - but absolutely never ponderous! - and flexible contralto of Sara Mingardo, going over the sticks in the horsy imagery of ‘Quel destrier’ or wishing his/her rival suitor dreams that will serve his/her own desires in the gorgeous ‘Mentre dormi’; or Roberta Invernizzi and Sonia Prima sharing one of the great Vivaldian duets (I am tempted to say one of the great operatic duets) – ‘Ne’ giorni tuoi felici’; or the delightful and intelligent coloratura of Laura Giordano in ‘Il fidarsi della speme’ and ‘Siam navi all’onde algenti’; or, indeed, Riccardo Novaro’s resonant interpretation of ‘Non so donde viene quel tenero affetto’. And much else. Or let your attention shift to the orchestral rhythms and colours that underlie and support all this singing – the typically vivid work of Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano.
Musicological pedantry might concern itself with the use of female voices in roles originally sung by castrati or might think some of Alessandrini’s continuo work on the over-assertive side. But to give much weight to such issues would surely involve ignoring the clear evidence of one’s ears – this works, works wonderfully!
-- Glyn Pursglove, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
L'Olimpiade, RV 725: Excerpt(s) by Antonio Vivaldi
Marianna Kulikova (Mezzo Soprano),
Riccardo Novaro (Baritone),
Sergio Foresti (Bass),
Sara Mingardo (Alto),
Laura Giordano (Soprano),
Sonia Prina (Alto),
Roberta Invernizzi (Soprano)
Written: 1734; Venice, Italy
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