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L'Olimpiade - The Opera / Basso, Gauvin, Chryssicos, Venice Baroque Orchestra

Caldara / Cherubini / Gauvin / Gottwald / Phan
Release Date: 05/29/2012 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 5295   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Leonardo LeoJohann Adolf HasseBaldassare GaluppiGiuseppe Sarti,   ... 
Performer:  Romina BassoFranziska GottwaldKarina GauvinNicholas Phan,   ... 
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

In the 18th century, 1,300 years after the last Olympic Games in ancient times, the Olympic theme was highly fashionable. Many composers based operas on the libretto to 'L'Olimpiade' by Metastasio. This recording has been structured to contain all of Metastasio’s original arias; it is a pasticcio in the sense that the music is by 16 different composers amongst the many that set the libretto between 1733 and the end of the century.
Venice Baroque Orchestra and its music director Andrea Marcon have a distinguished record of modern-day premieres, including works by Cavalli, Marcello, Handel and Vivaldi. In 2001 they added Cimarosa’s 'L’Olimpiade', and in 2006, Galuppi’s setting of the same Metastasio libretto. Only during research for
Read more the Galuppi staging did they become aware that dozens of composers had set the same story, leading to a discussion with Mr. Marcon about creating a 'pasticcio' performance and recording project.
The search for manuscripts led to libraries and music conservatories in Milan, Florence, Naples, Venice, Paris, Lisbon, Berlin, New York and Washington DC. Over time, several were found online. The objective, of Venice Baroque, is to help introduce important works by lesser-known composers, encouraging others to continue exploring the enormous body of 18th-century Italian opera.
L'Olympiade: the Opera
Libretto by Pietro Metastasio 1698-1782
Arias by Vivaldi, Cimarosa, Pergolesi, Leo, Hasse, Cherubini, Galuppi, Sarti, Myslivecek, Perez, Gassman, Caldara, Traetta, Jommelli, Piccinni

Romina Basso - Megacle, Franziska Gottwald - Licida [mezzos] Karina Gauvin - Argene, Ruth Rosique - Aristea [sopranos] Nicholas Phan - Clistene [tenor] Nicholas Spanos - Aminta [countertenor] Venice Baroque Orchestra Markellos Chryssicos [conductor]

“All in all, an Olympian musical achievement.” --CBC

“Sung and played with freshness and spirit by the VBO and six youthful soloists, this disc - full of showpiece da capo arias and gleeful coloratura - may up your game on the obscure opera front.” --The Observer

“This is a useful exploration of the compositional history of L’Olimpiade in attractive performances.” --IRR

“A genuine bedazzlement” --Le Soir

“A real treasure” --La Libre Belgique

Also, it has been awarded a "Choc de Classica" by leading French magazine Classica.

Full Review:

Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782) was the most famous librettist of the 18th century. Numerous librettos from his pen were used by composers across Europe. One of the most frequently set was L'Olimpiade. The first of these dates from 1733 and was written by Antonio Caldara (1670-1736), the last is from 1815, by the German composer Johann Nepomuk von Poissl.
 
Metastasio was an Arcadian, like many other prominent figures of his time, such as Pietro Ottoboni - patron of many composers - and Apostolo Zeno, another famous poet and author of librettos. The Arcadian movement was strongly influenced by antiquity as well as the moral principles of Descartes. According to the latter "virtue was best revealed in an individual's mental and spiritual ability to control actions that may be incited by human passion". Therefore "dramatic poets should teach moral principles under the guise of giving pleasure, and should move the emotions of audiences and readers in favour of the moral stance" (quotations from New Grove, ed. 2001). This explains the text of many arias in Metastasios librettos as well as their 'happy endings'.
 
L'Olimpiade takes its subject from the Olympic Games, but not so much the very fact of the Games itself. After all, the last time the Olympic Games had taken place was 393 AD. When humanism in the 16th century rediscovered the cultures of Greek and Roman antiquity, the phenomenon of the Olympic Games also reemerged. In the booklet Julian Fyfer quotes Shakespeare and John Milton who both refer to the Games in their works. Metastasio treated the subject from a rather pastoral point of view. Real sharp edges are more or less avoided. In his liner-notes Reinhard Strohm writes: "We seem to be in a different play: Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus the King. But in our opera, patricide and incest are avoided". It is telling that the first setting, by Antonio Caldara, was performed in Vienna during the vacation period in August, when the Habsburg empress celebrated her birthday. That would not be the right occasion to perform an opera heavy with conflict and including acts of treason and murder, as in some other Metastasio librettos.
 
The present recording fetaures all the arias of his libretto but by different composers. The music spans the period from 1733 (Caldara) to 1783 (Cherubini). In the booklet it is called a pasticcio, which New Grove defines as an "opera made up of various pieces from different composers or sources and adapted to a new or existing libretto". This practice dates from the late 17th century and at first was not universally accepted. It was only in the second half of the 18th century that this form gained a certain degree of respectability. It was a way of taking profit from the popularity of arias by the most famous composers of the time.
 
Historically speaking this recording cannot be called a pasticcio. First of all, we only get arias; they are not linked by recitatives. This means that it is impossible to understand the plot without reading the synopsis. It also means that there is no dramatic interaction between the protagonists. They all sing their own arias, without any dramatic connection between them. Secondly, the arias are from very different periods: a span of fifty years (1733-1783) may seem not a very long time, but stylistically Caldara and Cherubini are worlds apart. The change in style from one aria to another is sometimes quite drastic, for instance at the start of the second act, when Caldara's aria 'Grandi, è ver' is followed by 'Che non mi disse un di!' by Tommaso Traetta (1727-1779), whose setting dates from 1758. If you expect a piece of real music-theatre here, you will be disappointed.
 
This production can best be treated like a long public concert of arias from various operas. In an opera production the soloists need to portray their respective characters in a dramatically convincing way. That is hardly possible in an aria programme like this. Reinhard Strohm gives a description of the various characters in the story, and the singers generally live up to that description quite well. Stylistically these performances are far from perfect. In particular Romina Basso and Karina Gauvin use quite a lot of vibrato which is not justifiable. Some cadenzas tend to exaggeration. On a positive note, they avoid partly rewriting the da capos - a bad habit in many opera recordings these days. At first I had to get used to the singing of Nicholas Phan, but his interpretations of the three arias of Clistene are amongst the best here. I also liked Nicholas Spanos who has two arias in his role as Aminta, among them the brilliant aria in the second act, 'Siam navi all'onde algenti' by Hasse. Romina Basso shines in the highly dramatic aria 'Se cerca, se dice' by Cherubini. Franziska Gottwald is glorious in the superb sleep aria by Vivaldi, 'Mentre dormi'. Karina Gauvin and Ruth Rosique have brilliant arias in the second act: 'Tu me da me dividi' by Leo (Rosique) and 'No, le speranza' by Pergolesi (Gauvin).
 
Julian Fyfer, the producer of this recording, has made a fine choice from the many settings of this libretto. It is quite possible that a complete different selection would have resulted in an equally entertaining programme. With his choice we get very different compositional styles and different ways of dealing with the texts. The programme includes some composers who are hardly known, such as Davide Perez, Tommaso Traetta and Florian Leopold Gassmann. Even in the case of the better-known composers we only know a handful of their operas, and most of their dramatic works are seldom or never performed. This production should also be an incentive to opera houses and conductors to look for different repertoire. Wouldn't it be better to perform an opera by Caldara or Leo than, for instance, Handel's Giulio Cesare for the umpteenth time?  
 
-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Sinfonia ("Il Demetrio") by Leonardo Leo
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
2. L'Olimpiade: Superbo di me stesso by Johann Adolf Hasse
Performer:  Romina Basso (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
3. L'olimpiade: Quel destrier, che all’albergo è vicino by Baldassare Galuppi
Performer:  Franziska Gottwald (Alto)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
4. L'Olimpiade: Oh care selve, oh cara felice libertà! by Giuseppe Sarti
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
5. L'olimpiade: Del destin non vi lagnate by Josef Myslivecek
Performer:  Nicholas Phan (Tenor)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
6. L'Olimpiade: Tu di saper procura by Giovanni Paisiello
Performer:  Ruth Rosique (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
7. L'Olimpiade: Più non si trovano by David Perez
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
8. L'Olimpiade, RV 725: Mentre dormi, amor fomenti by Antonio Vivaldi
Performer:  Franziska Gottwald (Alto)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1734; Venice, Italy 
9. L'Olimpiade: Ne’ giorni tuoi felici by Florian Leopold Gassmann
Performer:  Romina Basso (Mezzo Soprano), Ruth Rosique (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
10. L'Olimpiade: Grandi, è ver, son le tue pene by Antonio Caldara
Performer:  Ruth Rosique (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
11. L'Olimpiade: Che non mi disse un dì! by Tommaso Traetta
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
12. L'Olimpiade: Siam navi all’onde algenti by Johann Adolf Hasse
Performer:  Nicholas Spanos (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
13. L'Olimpiade: Del forte Licida by Tommaso Traetta
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
14. L'Olimpiade: So ch’è fanciullo Amore by Niccolò Jommelli
Performer:  Nicholas Phan (Tenor)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
15. L'Olimpiade: Se cerca, se dice by Luigi Cherubini
Performer:  Romina Basso (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
16. L'Olimpiade: Tu me da me dividi by Leonardo Leo
Performer:  Ruth Rosique (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
17. L'Olimpiade: No, la speranza più non mi alletta by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
18. L'Olimpiade: Gemo in un punto, e fremo by Baldassare Galuppi
Performer:  Franziska Gottwald (Alto)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
19. Olimpiade: Caro, son tua così by Niccolò Piccinni
Performer:  Ruth Rosique (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
20. L'Olimpiade: Lo seguitai felice by Niccolò Jommelli
Performer:  Romina Basso (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
21. L'Olimpiade: Fiamma ignota nell’alma mi scende by David Perez
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
22. L'Olimpiade: Son qual per mare ignoto by Johann Adolf Hasse
Performer:  Nicholas Spanos (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
23. L'Olimpiade: Non sò donde viene by Domenico Cimarosa
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
24. L'Olimpiade: I tuoi strali terror de’ mortali by Johann Adolf Hasse
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra
25. L'Olimpiade: Viva il figlio delinquente by Johann Adolf Hasse
Conductor:  Markellos Chryssicos
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Venice Baroque Orchestra

Sound Samples

L'olimpiade: Sinfonia
L'Olimpiade: Act I: Superbo di me stesso
L'olimpiade: Act I: Quel destrier, che all'albergo e vicino
Olimpiade: Act I: Oh care selve, oh cara felice liberta!
L'olimpiade, EvaM 10:C12: Act I: Del destin non vi lagnate
Olimpiade: Act I: Tu di saper procura
Olimpiade: Act I: Piu non si trovano
L'Olimpiade, RV 725: Act I: Mentre dormi, Amor fomenti
L'olimpiade: Act I: Nei giorni tuoi felici
L'olimpiade: Act II: Grandi, e ver, son le tue pene
Olimpiade: Act II: Che non mi disse un di!
L'Olimpiade: Act II: Siam navi all'onde algenti
Olimpiade: Act II: Del forte Licida
L'olimpiade: Act II: So ch'e fanciullo Amore
Olimpiade: Act II: Se cerca, se dice: "L'amico dov'e?"
L'olimpiade: Act II: Tu me da me dividi
L'Olimpiade: Act II: No, la speranza più non mi alletta
L'olimpiade: Act II: Gemo in un punto, e fremo
Olimpiade: Act III: Caro, son tua cosi
L'olimpiade: Act III: Lo seguitai felice
Olimpiade: Act III: Fiamma ignota nell'alma mi scende
L'Olimpiade: Act III: Son qual per mare ignoto
L'Olimpiade: Act III: I tuoi strali terror de' mortali
L'olimpiade: Act III: Non so donde viene
L'Olimpiade: Act III: Viva il figlio delinquente

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