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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up the Garden Path?,
Signor Biondi writes in his introduction: "Although neither the original score of 1738 nor the later version performed in Vienna in 1742 has survived...." The original Vivaldi opera apparently used the same or a similar libretto as Giacomelli's opera called 'La Merope', and thirteen of the recorded numbers are from that opera.
Of the rest, one is from Vivaldi's otherwise lost opera 'Semiramide' of 1732, one is by Haase, one by Broschi, and the remaining ten from already recorded operas by Vivaldi - 'Griselda', 'Catone', etc.
Biondi has stitched this pastiche together very skilfully, using the proper libretto of Vivaldi's lost original.
In other words, this is a pastiche, with little new in it by Vivaldi, except possibly the 'Semiramide' piece.
Having said that, I thought it was very enjoyable indeed, played with great excitement, and very well sung. I am very pleased to have bought it & will play it again.
So who labelled it as a Vivaldi Opera, RV 726. which I'm sorry to say it certainly is not?
I have other excellent recordings of Vivaldi operas by Biondi, who is evidently a scholar. In his notes on 'Oracolo' he makes no false claims for it. So, if not Biondi, then who is the guilty party? Well, who is left? Recently a recording of a work called 'Germanico' was labelled as being by Handel, which clearly it is not. Is this the new trend - a sort of band-wagon jumping? Yours is the choice.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Trigger's Broom,
Vivaldi originally wrote "L'Oracolo in Messenia" in 1737, performed to great acclaim in Venice at the end of that year, and hoped that a revised version would prove instrumental in enabling him to revive his fortunes in Vienna when he headed there in 1740 after his decline in popularity in his home city. His attempted comeback never materialised, and the next year he died penniless and was buried in a pauper's grave. The revised version of the opera was finally staged in 1742.
Only the libretti survive for both productions, so what is here is a modern pasticcio with music and arias taken from other Vivaldi works, along with arias from other contemporary composers too (mainly from Giacomelli's 1734 version of the same story, La Merope, which used the same libretto by Zeno). Whether Vivaldi with its music replaced by other Vivaldi is still Vivaldi is perhaps a philosophical question along the lines of the Ship of Theseus, Locke's Sock or Trigger's Broom. And as such, in doing this, does it really provide an appropriate tribute to Vivaldi himself who was pinning his faith on the opera to effect his return to the top but whose life ended in such sad fashion?
But all such issues of authenticity and appropriateness aside, it's a decent and worthwhile bit of listening. The big names are as good as would be expected - Vivica Genaux, Ann Hallenberg and a long standing favourite of mine, Romina Basso. Although playing a minor character, I was particularly pleased with the young (still only 22) Julia Lezhneva who in the past I've regarded as a fully competent if not outstanding soprano, but who really shines here in her couple of arias I thought - she is really developing. Great performances too by countertenor Xavier Sabata, tenor Magnus Staveland and mezzo Franziska Gottwald.
The two discs come in separate cardboard sleeves in a hinged cardboard box along with a substantial booklet providing historical notes, synopsis and libretto with English, French & German translations.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent display-case for current baroque singing,
L'Oracolo in Messenia is not an opera by Vivaldi, nor even a pasticcio arranged by Vivaldi: it's a pasticcio arranged by Fabio Biondi, which perhaps resembles a work Vivaldi came to Vienna in 1741 to put on; but instead he died there. The named composer should properly be Giacomelli, who wrote most of the music - and very good it is too. I guess that giving a performance in Vienna, and having a good story to tell about Vivaldi's final months, were reasons why Biondi undertook this slightly odd exercise, but the main attraction must have been that he could hand-pick his singers, and hand-pick arias to suit them. If that was his intention, he succeeded brilliantly: what he has given us is an excellent display-case of current baroque singing.
He uses five high voices, three of them well-known. Ann Hallenberg is the wronged Queen, who has four arias, fast, slow, furious and pathetic (in the 18th century way!) which she sings straight, with power and accuracy. It's one of her best outings on record. Vivica Genaux is the Queen's son in search of his kingdom and his love. She too gets four arias. I think of Genaux as DiDonato light, with too much inherent wobble for baroque singing, but she does well here, though sounding rather mature for a young hero. Romina Basso (a rather short allowance of three arias) is the love-interest. She deploys her dark, powerful instrument as intelligently as ever and is a pleasure to hear.
Franziska Gottwald (labelled mezzo, but, like Romina Basso, more of an alto) I have only heard once before (she sang at the Gottingen Festival in 2006) but on this evidence I want to hear more. She sings a straight clear line and in her three arias shows an ability to sing accurate low coloratura which ought to make her an ideal Senesino-substitute. That leaves Julia Lezhneva, about ten years younger than the others, the only voice labelled soprano. She gets just two arias, but both are extreme display-pieces. The first is seven-minute burst of light machine-gun fire by Farinelli's brother Riccardo Broschi, a bit of nonsense Lezhneva sings so well that you believe it's music: the second is an aria actually by Vivaldi (one of the few), a bravura piece with horns, which lets Lezhneva demonstrate her uncanny abilities in baroque coloratura and ornament. Her colleagues do very well in these departments - the general standard is as high as I have heard on disc - but Lezhneva is something else.
The small band plays with fire and unanimity and Biondi keeps things moving. We're told the recording is from concert performances but you wouldn't know it, except for one or two audible digital tape-joins. The audio quality is excellent, with a good allowance of air around the voices.
Downsides? I don't much care for the tenor, who gets four arias, or the falsettist, who gets one. There's too much recitative (as usual in Vivaldi). These problems are easily solved with the next-track button.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Work,
One of Vivaldi's finest. I love how the opera is set out and it is very lovely to hear. I believe anyone who purchases this item will not be disappointed.
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