25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2006
A real treat. Wonderful music, wonderfully sung and played. All the cast are superb; and the performance fizzes with energy and panache. The conductor, Spinosi, has previously been criticised for abrupt and extreme changes in dynamics; but on this occasion he shows a genuine mastery of the idiom and provides a consistently sympathetic accompaniment. His band is on top form. A must for all lovers of Vivaldi
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I am not generally a major fan of baroque opera -- call me a Philistine! -- but I've been hooked by the spate of releases from the French label, Naïve, which, when it is finished, will present in 100 CD sets all of Vivaldi's works found in his music library at his death. And this includes all 49 of his operas! I was intrigued by this one because it tells the tale of 'patient Griselda' whose story comes down to us from folklore as retold in Bocaccio's Decameron and, more familiarly, in the 'Clerk's Tale' from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It's the story of a wife who displays incredible patience in the face of the many cruel tests of her loyalty that her husband puts her through. No need to retell that story here -- except to say that Vivaldi and his librettist Apostolo Zeno (with some revision by Carlo Goldoni) soften the villainy of the husband, Gualtiero.
The music Vivaldi provides is really more a showcase for some incredible singing and abundantly satisfying music. And that is in this performance in abundance. There is some almost superhuman coloratura on display here, and there is not a single weak performance. Outstanding in the title role is the rising Canadian mezzo (although she's listed in the booklet as a contralto), Marie-Nicole Lemieux. I've been quite impressed by her recordings, mostly on Canadian labels, with the exception of the one that featured music by Brahms. Lemieux is definitely more suited to baroque music and here she is simply sensational. Her 'Brami le mie catene' in Act I is a real showpiece with sudden starts and stops, dramatic outbursts alternating with meltingly beautiful cantilena. Just as fine is her Act II scena, 'No, non tanto crudeltà'. Argentinian soprano Verónica Cangemi as Griselda's long-lost daughter Constanza is equally superb. Her second act aria, 'Agitata a due venti', is simply stunning. Simone Kermes is excellent as Griselda's rejected suitor, Ottone, and is especially notable for her management of the awkward register shifts in her Act III showpiece, 'Dopo un'orrida procella'. Tenor Stefano Ferrari is excellent as the husband, Gualtiero, although some of the incredibly difficult fioriture in his opening aria, 'Se ria procella', almost gets away from him. Countertenor Iestyn Davies delivers Corrado's Act II 'La rondinella amante' beautifully.
All of this would less effective if it weren't for the really superb orchestra, Ensemble Matheus, under conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi's alert and sensitive guidance. The sound of the original-instruments orchestra is suitably dulcet or dramatic as required. All in all this is one of the best baroque opera recordings I've ever heard. I recommend it unhesitatingly, even for those who think they don't like baroque opera.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful bass line, which beautifully carries along the action with only the Theorbo - a jewel! Marie- Nicole Lemieux, in the title role of Grisleda is perfect with a voice absolutely perfect for the part. Ottone the knight in love with Griselda is the archetype of the castrato, pushed to insane limits by the vocal range and breath of Simone Kermes. The role of Gualtiero, king of Thessaly and father of Costanza, is a model of a Vivaldi tenor sung by a delicate, elegant and agile Stefano Ferrari , with a beautiful natural timbre. Costanza , sung by Veronica Cangemi , is thrilling - a wonder of lightness and elegance. Roberto, Costanza’s lover is sung by the divinely alto castrato Philippe Jaroussky , a dream of fullness and velvety colour and sound . Lestyn Davies is a beautiful and colorful Corrado . This recording won a Diapson D’Or award. In conclusion: PERFECTION!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2010
Thanks to a stunning cast of singers this opera manages to emerge out of the dross conducting of Spinosi. While his dynamic contrasts (quite extreme in some of his earlier Vivaldi opera recordings) are less apparent and less irksome here, he is still no Rinaldo Alessandrini, and I found some sections rather weedy and wanting in dignity. Surely Mr Spinosi would have learnt by now that there is more to Vivaldi than crude emphatic bowings? Still, the arias themselves - Vivaldi was always more of a 'sprinter' than a 'long distance runner' - are quite fun if you can get through the many uninteresting sections of recitative.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In 1735 Vivaldi unexpectedly received an invitation from the Grimani family of Venice, proprietors of the fashionable theatres of the city, to produce an opera. Previously ostracised from these establishments for over two decades, Vivaldi's commission was undoubtedly more to to with economic expediency by the owners rather than belated appreciation of his talents.
His choice of Apostolo Zeno's libretto of "Griselda", from a story taken from Boccaccio's Decameron of the patience and endurance of a long suffering queen looked down upon because of her lowly origins and whose loyalty is put to the test, may well have been a pointed dig at his new patrons. He collaborated with a famed Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni to rewrite the libretto, and wrote the score to make his singer Anna Girò, with whom he was rumoured to have an inappropriate relationship, prima donna for the first time. Goldoni in his memoirs complained of Vivaldi having "murdered" Zeno's libretto to accommodate Girò, who it seems was regarded as a singer of relatively modest ability. Nevertheless, it appears that the production was a great success.
It's not however Vivaldi's greatest music on show here in my estimation, with plenty of dry recitative and not much in the way of memorable arias. Marie-Nicole Lemieux in the title role has never been a particular favourite of mine to be honest, and she has not done much here either to convince me that she is a really great artist, but is decent enough. Tenor Stefano Ferrari is a little uninspiring for me as the king Gualtiero. The rest of the cast however do the best they can with the material they have, all outstanding performers in the form of sopranos Verónica Cangemi and Simone Kermes, and countertenors Philippe Jaroussky and Iestyn Davies. 3.5 stars.
The three disc set comes in a double jewel case, packaged alongside a separate booklet in a cardboard sleeve. The booklet contains some excellent background notes, synopsis and full libretto with translations (Italian/English/French/German).