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Vivaldi: Orlando 1714
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The rediscovery of a new Vivaldi opera! Orlando furioso is Vivaldi's most famous operas dating from 1727 . . . But today the specialists of the Venetian composer's catalogue are able to reveal that Vivaldi actually composed another Orlando furioso thirteen years earlier! Orlando furioso of 1714 now achieves a new lease of life under a catalogue number that has just been assigned to it: RV 819. Only two acts have survived. A baritone unlike the 1727 version sings Orlando.
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I have a few recordings in the Naïve Vivaldi Edition, but the only opera in the series I have is of the 1727 version of the same libretto, which while one of Vivaldi's best known operas, is also one of the most underrated. Yes, this does lead to similarities, after all which composer of the period did not recycle earlier material, but these are distant echoes with the opera on the whole sounding new and fresh.
The performance is one to savour, with all the vocalists giving a spirited performance of this effective performance. If I were to single one singer out it would be Roberta Mameli, who positively sparkles in the all too short role of Astolfo, just listen to her Act 2 aria Ah, fuggi rapido and, like me, you will be wishing that she had more to sing! The instrumentalists too are in fine form and breathe new life into this old music, and all under the expert direction of Federico Maria Sardelli, who proves that he is a lot more than an academic.
The booklet notes are excellent and it is recorded in a pleasingly natural and sympathetic acoustic, making this a most recommendable set. If you have the Naïve recording of the 1727 version of Orlando Furioso and you are dithering over whether to invest in this recording, well dither no more, buy this new recording, it has some really effective and pleasing music and you won't be disappointed!
With so much mystery surrounding the work, there is still a whiff of the spurious about the new offering. Several arias are missing from the manuscript housed in Turin. More are incomplete. The whole of Act III has been lost. Surely, then, this recreation is more to do with musicology than music, and more Sardelli than Vivaldi?
As ever, Sardelli makes a very clear and convincing case in his notes which accompany the recording. He didn't want to burden the world, he says, with another pasticcio, and so rejected the idea of re-creating the third act. Those arias that are taken wholesale from the Vivaldi operas which pre-date this score (Ottone in villa and Orlando finto pazzo) were recycled by the composer himself, with one single exception. Where the music is supplied by Sardelli, filling in for the missing vocal and melodic lines, Sardelli argues that the only other viable alternative was to abandon the fragments altogether. And anyway, he says, 'in this case, the fragmentation was horizontal, not vertical: what was missing was not whole blocks of music but a few lines of a composition that had survived in part.' Perhaps he is being slightly disingenuous here. 'A few lines' refers, after all, to musical parts rather than bars. What has survived is often no more than the basso continuo part and the first few bars of melody.
Despite reservations, this CD has to represent one of the triumphs of recent times in Baroque music. Sardelli is a thoroughly assured Vivaldian, and there can't be anyone better equipped than he is to divine the composer's intentions.
Two great regrets for me in 2012 were (despite being in France for practically the whole year!) missing the climax of the Tour de France, and missing the Beaune Festival of Baroque Music, where this Vivaldi opera received its world premiere. Luckily, the current CDs capture the essence of what was missed last July. And while the opera does not match Vivaldi's best in this genre (it is not La fida ninfa, for example), it is spirited and engaging nonetheless. From the very first tracks of CD 1 (which feature the scarcely heard Sinfonia RV781, contemporaneous with this opera and probably written as an overture) it gives an illuminating insight into Vivaldi's early years as an opera composer and, at the same time, a superb example of inspired musicianship. A very worthy release from Naive.
She is terrific.
Overall excellent singing and orchestral work.