Notes and Editorial Reviews
The artistic heritage of Antonio Vivaldi, acknowledged for his talent as far as the mastery of instrumental music is concerned, has waited for years for a correct evaluation in the opera music field as well. On the other hand, a musician who in 1739, at 61 years of age, was able to boast of having composed no less than 94 operas had a legitimate right to describe himself first and foremost an opera composer. Nowadays, unfortunately, only 23 of his opera scores have been preserved and not all are complete; as the scholar Reinhard Strohm writes, “We’re only able to document approximately 60 operatic performances between 1713 and 1739, in which the composer was personally involved in various ways. For these performances, he may have chosen the complete score, revised music by other composers, chosen and instructed the singers, rehearsed and conducted the performance, influenced revisions of his music by others, or worked in any combination of these possibilities. If we give a wide meaning to the word, Vivaldi was just as much an opera ‘impresario’ as an opera composer. This wasn’t at all common in Italy at that time and even less so for a priest. The least we can deduce from this situation was Vivaldi’s profound artistic passion for musical theatre.” Composed in 1724 for Rome’s Capranica Theatre, Giustino is a cornerstone work, situated on the ridge between the Red Priest’s old and new styles; precise indication of this importance is given by the fact that the customary borrowing from oneself, current usage in that period, is considerably reduced by Vivaldi for this work. Rather than to save time, since the inclusion of pre-existent episodes in the libretto and the score nevertheless involved laborious revision, this careful selection of the borrowing was used by Vivaldi to gather together a good part of his best previous music to impress the public: Giustino, as Strohm again states, is a sort of “Vivaldi anthology.” In fact, the borrowed pieces are often to be ranked among the best he’d ever written.